Ron Howard is currently at work on the Formula One racing drama Rush. The movie is based on the true story of the 1970s rivalry between Austrian driver Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl) and British driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). Howard recently spoke about how he’s going to try to sell Formula One to an American audience, which prefers NASCAR. My pitch would be, “Hey! Do you want to see what happens when the cars don’t have to go in a circle for ten hours? Do you want to see racing that’s far more dangerous? Then come see Rush!” Howard has a slightly more sophisticated approach and it’s one that I find slightly encouraging.
Hit the jump for what Howard had to say about Rush as well as an update on his epic adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower.
Howard says that when The Dark Tower hit a snag due to budget concerns, he re-teamed with Frost/Nixon screenwriter Peter Morgan and was taken by his script about Formula One racing. Howard had never been interested in F1 before, but after reading Morgan’s script he’s become a fan. So how is he planning to convert an American audience that prefers their racing in stock-car form? He explains to THR:
Because these are fascinating characters – ballsy, masculine guys. It was a very dangerous era in racing, and here are two absolute individuals at the height of their powers. It makes for great drama and very exciting action. I wasn’t a die-hard Formula One fan before I read Peter’s script, but I’ve been immersing myself in this world. I think the excitement I feel as a fresh convert may be infectious.
Howard says he’s interested in building a carefully-researched world like he did with Backdraft, Apollo 13, and Cinderella Man. I’ll give him Backdraft and especially Apollo 13, but Cinderella Man is a mess. In addition to being cloying and obvious, the movie is borderline anti-Semitic the way it paints Max Baer as the villain. I hope he’ll stay true to Hunt and Lauda, and it sounds like he’s moving in the right direction:
I’ve been spending a lot of time around Formula One tracks and talking to people connected to the sport. I’ve met Niki Lauda a few times. I sat with him during the race at Silverstone Circuit [in England], and his commentary was so riveting I didn’t even dare get up to go to the bathroom! Luckily, Formula One has been covered in such detail in the last 35 to 40 years with numerous documentaries, most recently with Senna, which I just today finished watching for the seventh time.
While Senna mostly takes place in the late 80s and early 90s, it still does a great job of capturing the world of European F1 racing and the rich personalities and rivalries that dominated the sport at the time. The flick came out to DVD and Blu-ray a couple weeks ago and it’s absolutely worth your time.
Howard says he plans to start principal photography in February (although he used a recent race at the Nurburgring Race Track in Germany to get some key shots) and he’s going to try and shoot Formula One racing in a way it’s never been seen before:
I think we can get the camera into places it hasn’t been before — right in the middle, in the guts of the race — and offer the audience a real experience of what these guys do.
I’m sure some of you just want to know what’s happening with The Dark Tower, but be forewarned: Howard sounds far more enthusiastic about Rush:
We are continuing to work on the script to find ways to make the budget more manageable and still deliver the work in a way that the project deserves. We were always racing and fast-tracking the project, so I always wince when I see something written about it and there’s a release date in there. These kinds of projects often take years to come together in the right ways. But I am in love with the material, and the minute it can come together in the right way, I am fully committed to it. Rush was kind of like a gift. I love stories that center on fascinating characters, and here you have psychologically complex, rare human beings, and they are also young and cool — and it’s all in this unbelievably glamorous, sexy period in the mid-’70s. And yet, in terms of emotion and the heartbeat of the story, I think they will be very relatable. If you don’t know anything about Formula One, I’m going to present it in such a way that you’ll very likely fall in love with it. If you do know Formula One, I’m going to be very respectful and deliver a film you’ll love, too.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m slightly excited for a Ron Howard movie. There’s no reason he can’t recapture the exhilaration and level of detail he provided with Apollo 13 and I hope he can deliver again with Rush. No release date has been announced, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rush tries to get into the 2012 Oscar race (no pun intended).