Hunt vs Lauda on the big screen in ‘Rush’


No doubt you will have heard about, and been intrigued by, a new motor racing movie.

Yes, another one for the fans, hard on the heels of the acclaimed documentary about Ayrton Senna that drew not just us devotees, but also a wide cross section of other people to the cinema.

Not since John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix and Steve McQueen’s Le Mans has there been a true Hollywood blockbuster based on the sport we love. The makers of the new film about the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda will therefore be greatly encouraged by the box office success of the Senna documentary. The new movie, however, is not a documentary.

Provisionally entitled Rush, the film will tell the story of the dramatic 1976 Grand Prix season, a tale that even the most creative Hollywood scriptwriter could not have invented. Allegations of cheating, swashbuckling British hero versus Austrian hard man, operatic Italian Ferrari versus sober English McLaren, Hollywood idol Richard Burton walks off with hero’s wife, hard man close to death after fiery crash, finale played out in pouring rain in shadow of Mount Fuji. And those are just the headlines for the posters.

Early indications for the film are good. Lauda himself is enthusiastically involved in the planning and Ron Howard, who made A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13, is the director. So if the film is anywhere near as good as those, we’re in for a treat. Script is by Peter Morgan, famed for the quality of his screenplays for The Queen and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It doesn’t get a lot better than this before filming gets underway.

But will we get the real story, the dramas and the tensions of that extraordinary season? Indications are good because former McLaren team manager Alastair Caldwell is also on board for the ride. This no-nonsense Kiwi, famed for his leadership and drive throughout that demanding season, will surely make sure that the facts, bizarre as some of them may be, get told as they should be.

It was in fact Caldwell who shrewdly stage-managed Hunt’s return to the grid at the British Grand Prix after Ferrari claimed he should not be allowed to take the re-start after damaging his car in a collision triggered by Clay Regazzoni who’d tried to muscle past Lauda at the first corner.

“What happened at Brands Hatch that summer is a big part of the story, especially the fall-out from the accident and the re-start. But I never wanted to get involved in the movies, nor ever thought I would be,” Alastair told me this week, “and I’ve been warned that even a little bit of filming takes a huge amount of time. It will be about a month out of my life, so I plan to get a motor home where I can get a bit of peace away from all the hundreds of people involved in the project. In racing I was used to working with a small team of people, everyone doing lots of jobs, no union rules or stuff like that. So yeah, it’s off to film school for me, and it will be an experience.” Presumably, Mauro Forghieri will also be invited to participate, though he may decide not to park his trailer next to the former McLaren man.

We don’t yet know who will play James Hunt, a tough casting decision if ever there was one, but it’s reported that Chris Hemsworth is in line for the role and Daniel Bruhl has been chosen to play Lauda. The film could succeed, or fail, in the casting where credibility is all. Suggestions on a post card to Ron Howard.

There are few details of locations, like which circuits may be used, but filming will be based in Europe. With a budget said to be $100 million, and input from the likes of Lauda and Caldwell, this is surely a movie that will come to a cinema near you with great expectations. The film will not be made for us racing fans, but for a wider audience. Those of us who were there, at the circuits through that long, hot summer of 1976, will surely be watching with a critical eye.


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