(AP) Howard makes a believable racing film with ‘Rush’
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
Ron Howard admits he was no racing aficionado when he set out to make the Formula One thriller “Rush,” chronicling the tense 1976 world championship battle between playboy James Hunt and calculating Niki Lauda.
Racing movies don’t have the best track record, after all. The driving has usually been unrealistic and too many directors cheated on details that insiders found offensive.
Howard was understandably nervous when he screened “Rush” for the F1 community, with Lauda himself in the audience, during the German Grand Prix weekend in July.
Howard’s understating the response he received: Lauda led the room in a standing ovation and the overwhelming reaction so far has been that Howard has made one of the most realistic and true racing movies to date.
Lauda has praised the Peter Morgan script, Howard’s directing and Daniel Bruhl, who plays Lauda in the film. Although Lauda did not spend many days on set, Howard said the former racer was available in preproduction and gracious with his time. Bruhl had the Austrian on speed dial during filming.
It’s a complicated story featuring two very different heroes. Hunt, the hard-partying, womanizing Englishman who succeeds despite himself, and the cold and socially inept Lauda, who has no time or patience for anything but winning.
They race during a dangerous period in Formula One, when technology rapidly outpaced safety advancements, and each driver faces it differently.
Lauda, more sensible and safety conscious, pays the price in a horrific accident that left him badly burned. He resumed their championship fight 42 days after the near-fatal crash.
While Chris Hemsworth plays Hunt, who died of a heart attack at 45 in 1993, Lauda believes Bruhl may have had the hardest role in the film because Lauda was able to critique the performance.
But it was Howard who actually had the toughest job because he was tasked with making a convincing movie about racing that would not be dismissed by the racing community while also appealing to a wide audience.
Why would Howard even bother?
The appeal was Morgan’s script, which Howard felt offered an original filmmaking opportunity and a fresh story for audiences. The story itself, a dynamic rivalry with a bit of romance set in the unfettered `70s, was the sell.
Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon privately screened the movie for his Hendrick Motorsports team over the summer as a bonding experience for his crew. He praised Howard, who Gordon knows personally, for concentrating on the story.
That’s the feedback Howard was hoping to hear, not just from the racing community, but from an audience that loves rich stories.