Formula One will hit the big screen in 2024. An epic F1 movie will start shooting in 2023, with film crews attending Grand Prix races midway through the Season. With legendary Hollywood celeb Brad Pitt in the staring roll, joined by “Top Gun: Maverick” Director Joseph Kosinski and F1’s Sir Lewis Hamilton taking on a roll as Producer/Advisor, wow, what could go wrong?
Well, let’s look at Hollywood’s record when it comes to motor-racing films.
The last motorsport film to grace the screen was “Ford vs Ferrari, the “true” story of Henry Ford’s second attempt to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unfortunately, this film takes a few liberties with the facts, but, okay, we need to jazz it up a bit for a more general audience. Where “Ford vs Ferrari” does excel is telling the tale of the great automotive entrepreneur Caroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon) and the lesser-known Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale). I like it.
The 2013 film, “Rush”, is the “true” life story of James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl), and their rivalry to claim the 1976 Formula One Championship. The real story is the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, Director Ron Howard managed to get most of the true facts wrong in how these great champions were portrayed. They were never archenemies; in fact, earlier in their careers they shared a flat in London.
“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (played by Will Ferrell) is another fiasco. There is not much to be said here, as this film is an insult to any hard-core race fan. It is plain Hollywood BS.
In “Driven”, very much like Talladega Nights, the Director assumes the audience is stupid. Firing up and driving an Indy car in downtown Chicago … maybe not so much … and, hey, Sylvester, I left the keys for the Reynard Indy car in my other pants! Pathetic.
We may have to go way back in time to find a motor-racing film of any quality. The 1971 heart-throb Steve McQueen Le Mans classic fits the bill. Some critics felt the film was devoid of any real story line and focused too much on the race itself. If a decent race movie is what you’re looking for, Le Mans likely fits the bill, as might John Frankenheimer’s 1966 “Grand Prix” starring James Garner. Although extremely dated yet with extraordinary film effects before they were mainstream, this is the quintessential racing movie. Both Le Mans and Grand Prix are non-biographical, but do use real race footage to tell the story of real events.
Okay, so where does that leave Pitt and Hamilton – can they do something great? Brad Pitt has some experience with motorsport films; he is listed as Producer (and narrator) of the Mark Neale Moto GP documentary “Hitting the Apex” (so worth watching) and perhaps this should give him some good grounding.
But, for Pitt, things like snubbing former GP driver and now F1 commentator Martin Brundle on the COTA Formula One GP grid walk lead to questions such as: “If he doesn’t know who Brundle is, how is he going to make a great F1 film”?
Fans are also asking about the storyline, with Pitt playing an aging driver who returns to a team to help a younger driver experiencing some difficulties. It’s essentially the same storyline as … you guessed, “Driven”.
What about Hamilton? He is a Producer of the film, but more relevant is his Advisory roll to the Project and his belief that “We’re going to make the best racing movie”. Let’s see what they do with their $140 million production budget.
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