Ford v Ferrari may have scored a Best Picture Oscar nomination earlier this year, but that wasn’t the only version of that particular film that Hollywood was trying to develop. Joseph Kosinski was a guest on Collider’s Directors on Directing panel as part of Comic-Con@Home, and when Collider’s Editor-in-Chief Steve Weintraub asked the Top Gun: Maverick helmer if there were any projects near and dear to him that never got made, Kosinski cited an unmade version of Ford v Ferrari titled Go Like Hell that might have starred Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
“The one that I always think about that got away was called Go Like Hell, which eventually did get made as Ford v Ferrari. I always wanted to make a racing film, but the thing about racing movies is, it can’t be about racing. It has to have some amazing story underneath to warrant itself being made, and that story was one of those great stories of an incredible friendship and an incredible rivalry and an incredibly dangerous race,” said Kosinski.
Go Like Hell was based on a 2009 book by A.J. Baime that initially drew the attention of director Michael Mann, who planned to work with Pitt. By October 2013, Kosinski had become attached to direct, while Cruise was attached to play car designer Carroll Shelby. Two months later came reports that Pitt was being courted to play hotheaded driver Ken Miles. Unfortunately, it didn’t go too much further than that.
“I wouldn’t say we got close to production, but I got to the point where I had Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt at a table read, reading the script together. But we couldn’t get the budget to the number it had to be at, and it was the right number. So that was the one for me that got away. But I was thrilled to see that they ended up making an amazing version of it,” Kosinski said with just a hint of regret.
You can practically see the director playing that version of the story — his version — in his head while answering the question. Though Kosinski seemed to lament the fate of Go Like Hell, he ultimately credited Ford v Ferrari director James Mangold for his realistic approach to the racing scenes, explaining that he had something similar in mind — especially given his leading man’s knack for pushing the action envelope and doing his own stunts.
“The script was the same, and I think [Mangold’s] approach was generally how I was going to do it, which was real cars, real racing — obviously, making it with Tom, that’s the only way that it would be made. In some ways, what we did for Top Gun, we were going to do for car racing with mounted cameras and all that,” said Kosinski. “I thought [Mangold] did an excellent version and I thought Christian Bale and Matt Damon nailed the characters, so that was a case where you go in going, ‘God, I hope this is good because I love the story so much.’ I actually saw it with Tom and we were both thrilled when we saw it. It’s a weird thing to see someone make a movie of something that you had kind of got close to making, but they did an amazing job with it.”
For the most part, everything happens for a reason in Hollywood, and it’s safe to say that things worked out for everyone in the end. Ford v Ferrari grossed $225 million worldwide and was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, while Kosinski was able to take his plans to shoot the racing scenes in an exciting way and apply them to the dogfights between jets in Top Gun: Maverick. As for Michael Mann, he’s currently pressing forward on an Enzo Ferrari biopic, and while he coincidentally lost future Ford v Ferrari star Christian Bale back in January 2016, his story also had a happy ending, as Hugh Jackman recently signed on to star.
For more from Collider’s first-ever Directors on Directing panel with Trevorrow, Rodriguez and Kosinski, click here.
You can also click here for the latest trailer for Top Gun: Maverick, which is slated to fly into theaters on Dec. 23.