A Ron Howard Film
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
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RUSH is released in cinemas across the UK & Ireland on 13th September, 2013
Two-time Academy Award® winner RON HOWARD (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) teams once again with two-time Academy Award®-nominated writer PETER MORGAN (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) on Rush, a spectacular big-screen re-creation of the merciless and legendary 1970s Formula 1 rivalry between gifted English playboy James Hunt (CHRIS HEMSWORTH of The Avengers, Thor) and his disciplined Austrian opponent, Niki Lauda (DANIEL BRÜHL of Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum).
Set against the sexy and glamorous golden age of racing, Rush portrays the exhilarating true story of the charismatic Hunt and the methodically brilliant Lauda, two of the greatest rivals the world of sports has ever witnessed. Taking us into their personal lives and clashes on and off the Grand Prix racetrack, Rush follows the two drivers as they push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance, where there is no shortcut to victory and no margin for error.
OLIVIA WILDE (TRON: Legacy) and ALEXANDRA MARIA LARA (The Reader) co-star in the epic action-drama as, respectively, Suzy Miller and Marlene Lauda, the loves of James and Niki’s lives who watched and feared as the men rocketed toward possible death.
Rush is produced by ANDREW EATON (A Mighty Heart, The Killer Inside Me), ERIC FELLNER (Les Misérables, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), BRIAN OLIVER (Black Swan, The Ides of March), Peter Morgan, Academy Award® winner BRIAN GRAZER (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) and Ron Howard. The film was co-financed by Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media, and produced in association with Revolution Films and Imagine Entertainment.
Howard has assembled a stellar crew of behind-the-scenes talent including Academy Award®-winning cinematographer ANTHONY DOD MANTLE (Slumdog Millionaire, The Last King of Scotland), production designer MARK DIGBY (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later), Oscar®-winning editors DAN HANLEY and MIKE HILL (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind), costume designer JULIAN DAY (Nowhere Boy, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) and Academy Award®-winning composer HANS ZIMMER (The Lion King, The Dark Knight Rises).
Executive producers for the film are GUY EAST (The Woman in Black, The Ides of March), NIGEL SINCLAIR (The Ides of March, End of Watch), TOBIN ARMBRUST (End of Watch, The Woman in Black), TIM BEVAN (Les Misérables, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), TYLER THOMPSON (Black Swan, The Woman in Black) and TODD HALLOWELL (Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon). Universal Pictures distributes the film in the United States.
Rush was filmed on location in the U.K., Germany and Austria.
BEFORE THE PRODUCTION
Dawn of a Rivalry:
Road to the 1976 World Championship
In 1975, Austrian racer Niki Lauda drove to the Formula 1 (commonly known as F1) world title in a Ferrari-powered car, ending a seven-year reign by Ford. Lauda’s run to the top set the stage for the dramatic 1976 season in which our story is told.
The Unbelievable 1976 Season
The early stages of the 1976 racing season gave no indication as to the incredible drama that would unfold between two of racing’s fiercest competitors. Defending champion Lauda of Ferrari drove to six victories in the season’s first nine races, capturing the top prize at Brazil, South Africa, Belgium, Monaco and Great Britain. Lauda also earned a spot on the podium as runner-up in the Spanish and the United States Grands Prix and made it to a third-place finish in Sweden.
By the midway point of the season (eight races), Lauda and Ferrari had built up a seemingly insurmountable lead in the point standings, more than doubling the total of their nearest competitor. While Lauda dominated, James Hunt—the driver who would ultimately emerge as his greatest rival—struggled for the most part. In his first year with Team McLaren, he failed to finish four of the season’s first six races.
Controversy even haunted Hunt in victory. Although he beat Lauda to the finish line in the season’s fourth race, the Spanish Grand Prix, officials disqualified Hunt after the race—ruling that his Marlboro McLaren-Ford M23 was too wide. McLaren protested on the grounds that the discrepancy was due to the expansion of the tires during the race. McLaren eventually won its appeal, but only after two months of haggling were Hunt’s points reinstated.
Hunt claimed victory at the French Grand Prix (Race No. 8), when Lauda was forced to retire due to engine trouble. At that point, it was the only race that the Austrian had failed to finish.
Following his triumph in France, Hunt returned home a hero to compete in the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. However, Lauda disappointed the British faithful as he won the pole and led throughout the first half of the race. When Lauda experienced gearbox troubles with only 15 minutes left, Hunt took the lead and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. Hunt went on to victory, and Lauda held on for second.
But controversy would again slap Hunt in the face. The British Grand Prix was finished after a restart on the first lap. Clay Regazzoni, Lauda’s Ferrari teammate, immediately challenged Lauda. Their cars touched. Regazzoni spun and was hit by Hunt and Jacques Laffite. Although the remainder of the field passed by safely, the debris on the track necessitated a restart.
Hunt had jumped into his team’s spare car for the restart, as did Laffite and Regazzoni, although they were forced to retire. After the race, Ferrari and two other teams protested Hunt’s win in a backup machine. McLaren maintained that, since no lap had been completed, the restart rules did not apply. F1’s governing body upheld the protest, stripped Hunt of the victory and promoted Lauda to first place.
Heading into the 10th race of the season, the German Grand Prix, Hunt had inched slightly closer to Lauda in the point standings but remained a whopping 23 points behind, with seven races remaining. Lauda still seemed a sure-fire bet to win his second straight title.
All that changed in Germany.
Near Death at “The Ring”
Although F1 began introducing greater safety innovations in the 1960s, the measures were often outpaced by technological advancements that allowed the cars to go faster. In its first 56 years of the sport, driver fatalities had averaged nearly three per year. From 1967 to 1975, a total of 13 F1 drivers lost their lives in racing accidents.
No turn at any track was more infamous than the Nordschleife (northern loop) at Nürburgring, Germany, a racing circuit nicknamed “The Green Hell” by F1 driving legend Jackie Stewart. Nestled in the Eifel mountains about 70 miles south of Cologne, “The Ring” was often damp, misty or foggy. Varying weather conditions at different ends of the track were not unusual, and the 14.2-mile, tree-lined course featured an incredulous 177 turns.
Lauda, one of the sport’s most vocal advocates on the subject of driver safety, was a vocal opponent to racing Nürburgring. At a drivers’ meeting in spring 1976, Lauda proposed a driver boycott of Nürburgring but was voted down. Prodded by driver Stewart, the track had spent substantial sums in 1974-76 to improve safety with catch fencing and guardrails. But “The Ring” still loomed as an ominous racing venue.
“The problems posed by Nürburgring were obvious at a glance,” Lauda wrote in his autobiography, “Meine Story.” “Its layout made it the most difficult circuit imaginable. It was well-nigh impossible to render safe 14.2 miles of tree-lined track.”
Despite his concerns, Lauda qualified second, to Hunt, for the 1976 German Grand Prix. On the morning of the race (August 1, 1976), the weather forecast for Nürburgring was typically unpredictable. Near race time, rain began to fall, and most teams switched to their wet-weather tires—in retrospect, a strategic error as the rain subsided and stiff winds dried the track.
Lauda started poorly, dropping quickly in the field. He remembers pulling into the pits, changing from wet to dry tires: his last memory of the race. As he approached a corner, a tie-rod broke on his Ferrari. The car went sideways, slammed into an embankment, became airborne and then smashed onto the track.
The first racecar through was able to avoid Lauda and the wreckage. A second car, driven by Brett Lunger, crashed into Lauda, whose Ferarri burst into flames. The next car, driven by Harald Ertl, plowed into both wrecked cars. Lunger and Ertl were unhurt, but Lauda’s car was engulfed in flames. Several drivers, including Lunger and Ertl, worked frantically to remove Lauda from his burning vehicle. They eventually succeeded in pulling Lauda to safety, but not before he had been critically burned.
Lauda was airlifted to an intensive care unit in Mannheim where a team of six doctors and 34 nurses worked to save his life. He had suffered third-degree burns on his head and wrists, several broken ribs, a broken collarbone and cheekbone. Of even greater immediate concern was the damage to his lungs that resulted from breathing toxic fumes delivered by the fire extinguishers at the crash scene.
Although Hunt ended up winning the German Grand Prix, the headlines the following day were rightfully dominated by Lauda’s crash and how the defending F1 champion was clinging to life. For four days, Lauda hovered near death.
But Lauda wouldn’t let go. Nearly blinded, he focused on voices to maintain consciousness. After his recovery, he immediately began to form plans for his return to racing—that season. With a therapist as his constant companion, he exercised 12 hours each day. “I made a quick recovery as far as damage to the vital organs was concerned,” Lauda wrote, “but my superficial injuries turned out to be a bit more complicated.”
In addition to the severe burns on Lauda’s face, both eyelids had been burnt away. Plastic surgeons offered different opinions on his therapy, but Lauda settled upon a Swiss surgeon who grafted skin from behind his ears to form new eyelids.
Hunt Moves Up, Lauda Returns
With Lauda out, Hunt narrowed in on the points lead. He won the pole for the Austrian Grand Prix and placed fourth in the race. He followed Austria with a win at the Dutch Grand Prix, cutting Lauda’s points lead to two, 58-56. Only four races remained and, with Lauda presumably done for the year, it appeared the World Championship was Hunt’s for the taking.
Then came the unbelievable news from Lauda’s camp: The reigning world champion would return to the track for the Italian Grand Prix on September 12, 1976, only six weeks after his near-fatal crash. Miraculously, Lauda qualified fifth and scored an amazing fourth-place finish in Italy. He extended his points lead over Hunt, who struggled in qualifying and failed to finish the race.
Hunt bounced back to win both the Canadian and U.S. Grand Prix, while Lauda placed eighth and third, respectively, in those events. In between, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) took away Hunt’s July 18 victory at the British Grand Prix. Now, Lauda held a three-point advantage, 68-65, with one race to go in the season, the Japanese Grand Prix.
Although Hunt still trailed Lauda, the dashing young Brit was now racing’s hottest property. While Lauda had won four of the year’s first six races, Hunt was the champion four times in the latest six.
In Japan, Hunt and Lauda qualified second and third, respectively, behind Mario Andretti. Perhaps Lauda may have been more concerned about the weather forecast, but he knew Hunt’s car would handle better on a wet track; as well, he was also worried about his eyes and reduced visibility in the rain.
Lauda’s worst fears were realized when rain poured all night on the Fuji International Speedway, followed by fog and more rain on race day. Hunt and Lauda, both members of the drivers’ safety committee, urged organizers to postpone the race. Their plea fell on deaf ears. Although the start was delayed by 1:40, it otherwise went off as scheduled.
Hunt got off to a fast start while Lauda quickly fell back. After two laps, Lauda pulled into the pits and shut off the car. “It’s too dangerous,” the Austrian said.
The Brit led 61 of the 73 laps, then went on to place third behind Andretti and Patrick Depailler. Hunt earned four points for his performance, enough to wrest the season championship from Lauda by a single point. The championship came as a surprise to Hunt, who had been unsure of his position following a late pit stop.
“I think it was really a brave decision for Niki to stop. I really feel for him,” Hunt told Sports Illustrated. “Under the circumstances, he was incredibly courageous. To tell you the truth, I feel that the race should not have been started in those conditions. Niki’s decision not to carry on was perfectly reasonable. In his situation, with the accident at Nürburgring and everything, who wouldn’t have made the same choice?”
Lauda left the track immediately, too emotional to wait for the inevitable post-game media blitz. Years later, he expressed few regrets for his decision: “I see the loss of the 1976 World Championship differently from how I did then, although I do not reproach myself. If I had been a little less tense at the decisive moment, if I had taken it easy and coasted to the couple of points I needed for the title, then I would have four titles to my credit instead of three. But, to be candid, I couldn’t care less.”
The End of an Era
Lauda would return to win the World Drivers Championship again in 1977 for Ferrari, but 1976 would be etched into fans’ memories for decades to come. He later switched to McLaren and won his third title in 1984 by one-half point over teammate Alain Prost. Following the 1985 season, Lauda retired from racing.
From the severe burns to his head following the 1976 crash in Germany, Lauda suffered extensive scarring. He lost most of his right ear, as well as the hair on the right side of his head, eyebrows and eyelids. He had reconstructive surgery to replace the lids and get them to work properly, but never felt the need to do more. Since the accident, he has worn a cap to cover the scars on his head. The author of five books, Lauda ran his own airline, Lauda Air, before selling it to Austrian Airlines in December 2000.
Hunt’s dramatic battle with Lauda would result in Hunt’s sole World Championship. Following the 1979 season, Hunt retired from racing and worked for years as a racing commentator for BBC Sports. He also served as an adviser and consultant to young drivers.
Hunt died of a heart attack in 1993 at age 45.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Knights Ride Again:
Rush Is Developed
British screenwriter/playwright Peter Morgan believed that the Lauda-Hunt rivalry and their accompanying thrilling battles during the 1976 Formula 1 season was a story that transcended the sports pages.
Morgan has earned a reputation as a master of modern-history movie scripts. He captured the intrigue behind Uganda’s brutal dictator Idi Amin (The Last King of Scotland), Queen Elizabeth II’s struggles following the death of Princess Diana (The Queen), the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding David Frost’s 1977 interview with former U.S. President Richard Nixon (Frost/Nixon) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s relationships with both his successor, Gordon Brown (The Deal), and former U.S. President Bill Clinton (The Special Relationship). For his work, Morgan earned Academy Award® nominations for Best Screenplay for both The Queen and Frost/Nixon. “I grew up in England knowing all about James Hunt,” Morgan recalls, “but I never knew Niki’s side of the story.’”
The screenwriter, who lives in Austria, approached Lauda with an idea to write a script that dramatized the tumultuous 1976 racing season. Lauda consented and provided Morgan with invaluable input during the draft stages. “We had a lot of discussions about the Hollywood movie and the reality,” Lauda says. “I always brought him back to the reality. They were very interesting discussions.”
Morgan grew more and more taken by the incredible tale as he put pen to paper. He explains: “I wrote it on spec. I found it interesting but I was an Englishman married to an Austrian, living in Vienna. I didn’t know who else might be interested. Once it was finished and I started showing it around, I found other people who also found it interesting.”
One of the first people to whom Morgan showed the script was director Michael Winterbottom’s longtime producer Andrew Eaton, with whom Morgan had been working on the Fernando Meirelles drama 360. “I was aware of the project because I was working on another film with Peter,” Eaton relays. “He gave me the script to read, which I loved straightaway.”
Eaton, a co-founder of Revolution Films, recognized that while the movie is set amid the glamour and excitement of F1 racing, at its heart is a story about two quite contrasting personalities. “It’s a character story with two characters: one Austrian, one English,” Eaton says. “It’s mainly about these two men, their different styles and their different lifestyles. But it also happens to have this amazing backdrop of motor racing and Formula 1, making it a character piece with action.”
The themes and the period in which Rush is set attracted the attention of Eric Fellner who, with his partner Tim Bevan, owns and operates Working Title Films. They had recently co-produced Asif Kapadia’s award-winning Senna, based on the life of the great F1 champion Aryton Senna, and grew even more transfixed with the sport.
Fellner explains that his fascination with racing began as a boy: “The mid-’70s was the period that brought me into the excitement of Formula 1 racing. It was the Hunt-Hesketh days. I was just a teenager at school, and Formula 1 was an epic piece of the sporting calendar on a weekly basis. These guys were gladiators—incredibly sexy and incredibly exciting because they rolled the dice with death every weekend. They were rock stars, and no one personified that better than James Hunt.”
From beloved projects such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually to 2012’s global blockbuster Les Misérables, the London-based Working Title has made a global imprint with its movies. For the production partners, story has always trumped spectacle. “I started making films back in the ’80s and had always wanted to make a movie about Lord Hesketh’s brief, but glamorous involvement with the sport of auto racing,” states Fellner. “We were never able to pull that off, but years later I was approached to do a documentary on the life of Aryton Senna. I saw that a documentary was a good low-budget way of approaching the subject. I always thought a Formula 1 feature, especially a period feature, would be prohibitively expensive. Then Peter Morgan and Andrew Eaton came to me with this script, which they said could be made for a reasonable price. I couldn’t resist, and I said I was in.”
Brian Oliver, president of Cross Creek Pictures, which has produced critically and popularly acclaimed fare such as Black Swan, The Ides of March and The Woman in Black—the latter two co-produced with Exclusive Media—recognized that the setting and dramatic elements could make Rush a viable project. Oliver agreed to work on the financing structure and immediately called executive producers Nigel Sinclair and Guy East, who head Exclusive Media—a mini-studio whose film credits include the upcoming production Parkland, the critically acclaimed End of Watch, Snitch and through its documentary label, Spitfire Pictures, the Academy Award®-winning documentary Undefeated. “I read the script and immediately thought, ‘Wow, we’ve got to do this,’” recalls Oliver. “It was one of those screenplays that transcends that sport and becomes fully about the characters.”
Sinclair concurs: “As a Formula 1 fan, I immediately saw the potential of the wider appeal for this gladiator rivalry story.”
East and Sinclair, along with Exclusive’s head of production, Tobin Armbrust, quickly agreed to fully co-finance the budget with Cross Creek and also to look after the international distribution and marketing of the movie. East comments: “With Ron Howard so dedicated to the process of making Rush as an independently financed film, we knew our international partners were going to be very supportive.”
The passions, personalities and competitive extremes of these characters—not to mention his experience on his last film with Morgan—convinced two-time Oscar® winner Ron Howard to direct Rush. “I had the pleasure of working with Peter on Frost/Nixon and when he told me about the remarkable conflict between these two amazing characters, I found the story completely irresistible,” Howard explains. “The characters are so rich. The rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda was dramatic. It was violent, sexy and, ultimately, it was very emotional and triumphant—the makings of a great screen drama. During the 1976 season, everything intensified. Everyone, even people who didn’t necessarily follow the sport, was talking about it. Everyone was writing about it because they were such opposites. It not only makes for great drama, it’s a dichotomy that creates a lot of humor. And given the world in which they exist, it was a fresh story with totally unique characters.
“What Peter is great at is looking at characters,” continues the director. “When he deals with true stories, he’s fantastic at discerning what it is that makes them tick, what is that thing that gets under their skin in positive or negative ways and how to build scenes around that. Some of the scenes are purely factual, some are dramatic illustrations but they’re all meant to serve these ideas he’s developed. So, the results are always very honest, if not 1,000-percent authentic.”
It’s no coincidence that Howard’s latest project, along with his Oscar®-nominated films Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon, is set in the ’70s. The filmmaker admits he’s long been captivated by the era. “It’s a very sexy, fascinating period in global history and popular culture,” he explains. “I believe that by using today’s cinematic technology, with a classic look at a remarkable time, we’ve made something that cuts through to the audience and feels fresh, rewarding and exciting.”
What also sparked Howard was that this era was the same as his transition from performer to filmmaker. “When this story was taking place, Happy Days was becoming a No. 1 show around the world,” Howard says. “So, I recognized the cultural differences of that period. It was the tail end of the sexual revolution, where there was nothing to fear and everything to celebrate…when sex was safe and driving was dangerous. The drive to express yourself, take chances and stand for something unique and particular was depoliticized coming out of the ’60s, but it was still there on a cultural level. When I hear wild stories about Formula 1, I realize people don’t quite do those things today but they are not entirely alien to my own understanding of what the world of celebrity was like in the ’70s.”
Their wish list of directors had been a short one, and the producers agreed they had the top name on the list. “Ron is one of the great American film directors,” Oliver says. “Having him involved in a European racing project is a huge plus for the success of the film. It wasn’t a big stretch to believe that the man who brought us into the world of astronauts and firefighters could make a great movie about race drivers.”
Eaton appreciated the indefatigable energy the crew would find in its leader. He commends: “When we were looking around for directors, Peter had breakfast with Ron in Los Angeles and Ron told him how much he wanted to do the film. He’s a huge sports fan and even though he wasn’t really familiar with Formula 1, he appreciates the drama inherent in sports competition. Ron also has the same energy and drive as the two lead characters. It’s inspiring to work with him because of his attention to detail and his raw energy. He was the perfect person to direct this movie.”
The producers knew that Howard could find the humanity in real characters from recent history better than most. “From the mathematician in A Beautiful Mind to the astronauts in Apollo 13, he excels at capturing an environment in which real people operate,” says Fellner. “It’s a plus that he came in knowing little about the sport. It’s been my experience that if you have a director who comes to a film without knowing everything there is to know about the subject material, you often get a more interesting point of view. Ron’s take on this world brings us to places no other director could have taken us.”
“One of the most exciting aspects of the film was Ron Howard’s involvement,” says executive producer Tobin Armbrust. “Watching him work first-hand, I was inspired by his ability to move smoothly between heart-pounding race sequences and intimate character moments.”
Joining the production team on Rush was Howard’s longtime partner at Imagine Entertainment, Oscar®-winning producer Brian Grazer, who found himself as intrigued by Morgan’s script as he was by the writer’s last screenplay for Imagine. “Ron and I worked with Peter on Frost/Nixon,” Grazer relays, “and Peter has this ability to study somebody and at the same time get so microscopic that he can see the pores in their skin.”
Grazer found that Morgan’s latest examination of the machinations of men was just as laser focused and explains where this project sits in the canon of films that he’s produced with Howard. He notes: “The continuity that Rush shares with the other films from Ron and me is that it’s about the characters’ identities, about how their psyche works. Rush is also about two men who have giant flaws who are competing with each other. Oddly enough, this film isn’t about winning the race, it’s about how these men overcome their flaws through a competition and become more complete. Their victories lie within. Ultimately, James and Niki not only improved themselves through the racing, they improved each other’s self-worth.”
With Imagine as one of the final pieces of the puzzle, the financing in place and Howard in the director’s chair, Rush moved quickly into production.
The Search for Hunt and Lauda
Through his lead role performances in Thor and The Avengers, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has shot to stardom within the last few years. With the versatility he’s shown in movies from The Cabin in the Woods to Snow White and the Huntsman—not to mention his movie-star wattage—Hemsworth was a natural for McLaren driver Hunt, whom Howard describes as “a rock star on wheels.”
“James was famous for being a ladies’ man, famous for epitomizing the spirit of the ’70s with a very free lifestyle,” Howard says. “But he was incredibly competitive. He represented the idea that you can be great without making it a business, that a vocation could be some wild form of expression, not just a job. Chris’ performance captures that.”
Howard had not met the actor before casting the part. “Chris won the role with his fantastic audition,” he says. “I’d seen him in Thor and in Star Trek. I met him, I liked him, but I had no idea if he could be James Hunt. He convinced me and everyone involved with the tape that he made while he was on location doing The Avengers. It was remarkable. There was nothing more to say than, ‘Please, sign that guy for the role.’”
While that sort of audition wasn’t remotely what Hemsworth had in mind, he didn’t want to miss the opportunity. “Normally, I wouldn’t have done that unless it was something like this project and for someone like Ron, a director I’ve wanted to work with for years,” says Hemsworth. “He’s one of those people who is as good a person as he is a director. You want to work for Ron because you know every time you hold back a bit, he’s there to challenge you. He knows he can squeeze something else out of it.”
Naturally, performers hope to wrap themselves around a character, but that wasn’t always easy for Hemsworth. Although he and Hunt share the same blue eyes and swagger, there was more to melding the two. “It was interesting to try to pin down exactly who James was,” he says. “In reading different biographies, watching different interviews—depending on what mood he was in—and then speaking to people who knew him, there are varied opinions. I think that’s why it was so fascinating to be around him: He was incredibly passionate, outspoken and a great amount of fun. But he also had a side to him that was bottled up, a sort of dark side. There were contradictions, which make for an interesting character.”
Hemsworth learned that Hunt’s duality was never more obvious than on the track. He provides: “I spoke to one of James’ teammates, and he recalled a conversation he had with James where he said, ‘God, James, those first two laps of the race you were all over the place!’ And James just said, ‘You know, I can never remember the first two laps.’ He had that much adrenaline flowing, and we get all that in the film. He threw up before races and would work himself into a heightened state of tension because he believed that was where his best performance came from.”
The more Hemsworth delved into Hunt’s backstory, the more he was hooked. He says: “The best stuff I found was in the archive footage, little snippets before and after the interviews, when no one realized they were rolling. There are flashes of who James was. There was such fascination in his eyes, a thirst for life. Everything caught his attention. He was like a little kid. They own the environment they’re in and have a need to explore the world and to be indulgent.” Hemsworth pauses: “He didn’t want to drive for second or third place. It was win or nothing. After James won the championship in 1976, he pulled back from it all. I don’t think he felt the same passion.”
Hemsworth wasn’t sure if all of the tales of the infamous playboy were fact or lore. “In Hunt’s biography, it says he’d been with 5,000 women,” he notes. “There’s a classic story in which all the flight attendants who came into Japan were staying at the same hotel James was. This was just before his big race at Fuji for the World Championship. He spent the night with each of them at different times…or at the same time.”
The performer’s research into Hunt’s life—not to mention the sets, costumes and vehicles—made his transformation to 1970s Hunt a comfortable fit. “The period certainly suits my character,” he says. “James belonged in that era. Everything was passionate and indulgent. As Ron kept saying, it was a time ‘when the sex was safe and driving dangerous.’ Now, it’s the other way around. Everything has become so censured and sanitized. It always helps an actor when you’re not trying to convince yourself who you are in that world, when everything around reminds you of it.”
Captivated by the contrast between Hunt and Lauda that Morgan underscored in his screenplay, Hemsworth grew to understand what drove them both. He notes: “There was a bit of yin and yang going on with the two of them. I think they brought out the best and worst in one another. They forced each other to look in the mirror and think, ‘Am I approaching this the right way?’ Today, Niki will say James was one of the people he respected the most.”
When trying to dissect the character of Lauda, Howard was surprised by the memories that process evoked. “Niki reminds me of the astronauts who I worked with on Apollo 13,” he says. “He is very scientific, technically astute but with just enough sense of adventure, a willingness to risk everything and push it to places others didn’t. In a lot of ways, Niki represented a new breed of professional athlete. He made it a business, yet the competitive fires were clearly there.”
As news spread among the acting community of Morgan’s script, Lauda was asked who might portray him in the film. He dryly quipped to Oe3 public radio: “Everyone who has had his right ear burnt off can already start making plans.” Jokes aside, the sports legend voiced his approval of German-national and Spanish-born Daniel Brühl as his on-screen persona, especially after meeting the actor in Vienna. “I liked the guy from the first day,” commends Lauda. “He was down to earth and a real talented guy.”
The multilingual Brühl is an emerging presence in European cinema and television who received raves for his international breakthrough role in the 2003 Golden Globe-nominated Good Bye, Lenin!. He made his English-speaking film debut in 2004’s Ladies in Lavender and came to international attention with his performance of German sniper Frederick Zoller in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds.
For Howard, Brühl’s casting was also a simple choice. “Daniel’s done a lot of movies that I’ve seen, and Peter had known his work for a long time,” the director says. “When I met him, he was clearly that kind of actor-chameleon who loves to create a character. I knew he’d do a great job with an Austrian accent, and physically, with a little makeup work, I knew he could easily resemble Lauda. Getting Daniel and Chris to play these roles was a spectacular break for a director.”
Brühl admitted some trepidation in portraying a racing legend. “I thought, ‘How could I possibly play Niki Lauda? That’s a tough part.’ He’s a guy who’s so different than me, and he’s still very present in Germany because he is a commentator on Formula 1 broadcasts,” the actor says. Still, he went to the audition with no expectations and was thrilled when he learned that Howard had offered him the part.
With his desire for total preparedness, Brühl fell in step with the Rush team. “At first, I watched a lot of footage and interviews,” Brühl says. “There’s so much you can see about him. The production company delivered all the material I needed, and I read his autobiography, “To Hell and Back,” which is a real page-turner.”
Then came the prospect of a personal meeting with Lauda. Naturally, Brühl was nervous to meet the man he would portray on screen. “Knowing that Niki’s very frank and honest I thought, ‘Hopefully, he’s going to like me and we’ll get along,’” Brühl recounts. “He called and invited me to come to Vienna. Then he said, ‘Just bring hand luggage in case we don’t like each other.’ Fortunately, we did, and I could ask him whatever I wanted. He was so open and generous with his time.”
The famously precise Lauda recalls their time together: “I asked him, ‘Is it difficult to play me?’ He said, ‘Yes, because you are alive and you are known through television and other things. People know how you talk and what you do, so it’s very difficult for me to really play you.’ So, he came to Vienna to learn the Austrian language and my way of speaking English. He did a really good job to be the real Niki Lauda.”
Although Brühl studied his character assiduously, there were aspects he was hesitant to probe in his meetings with Lauda, lest the inquiry be too personal. He was surprised, however, with the answer he got when he screwed up the courage to ask Lauda about the fiery crash at Nürburgring. “The interesting thing to me is that he doesn’t remember the accident at all,” the actor says. “It’s almost supernatural to me, one of the most fascinating aspects of my part, and it’s something I can’t understand.”
The contrasting appearances between Lauda and Hunt were corollary to the drivers’ approaches to their craft. Likewise, Brühl and Hemsworth take different approaches to acting. “We come from completely different directions,” Brühl offers. “I have the highest respect for Chris’ work because it’s so physical. He plays superheroes; that’s a lot of work. I come from a different direction, so the rivalry was believable. But their journey ends with them almost being friends. That worked out perfectly with Chris and me, as we share a sense of humor, laughed a lot and teased each other.” However, the rivalry doesn’t end there. “I must say, I find myself rather sexy in the movie,” Brühl laughs. “James was the lady killer, but Niki is quite cool as well.”
Equally so, Hemsworth felt comfortable working with Brühl. “Daniel and I were at similar places in our career,” he explains. “It’s still exciting and new to us. We’re not jaded by it all. It was a much more organic space to work in. You’d think it would’ve helped if we didn’t get along off set, so we could work that into our roles. But, I find it the opposite. He is hugely talented and committed. It was also nice to have somebody in the same mindset with whom to bounce ideas around.”
Producer Grazer felt the two actors’ energy on-screen from the first day. He commends: “Chris is a gigantically charismatic, sexy guy who conformed his body to what Hunt looked like. He’s magnetic. And Daniel was amazing in Inglourious Basterds. He’s an unbelievable actor. It’s always challenging to find two people who can compete with one another, who can raise each other’s game not only in the film but on the set. These two actors are confident within their art form and were able to challenge each other for their best performance.”
Also impressed with Hemsworth and Brühl’s total immersion into their characters—and their performance in the mandatory Formula 3 preparation course—was ALASTAIR CALDWELL, Hunt’s team manager and chief mechanic in 1976, and a technical consultant during filming. “The physicality is almost laughably good,” Caldwell nods. “Chris looks like James. He’s the right size, the right coloring. Daniel’s even more perfect. His body language, size, everything’s almost eerie.”
Supermodels and Teammates:
No man is an island, and each of the talented co-stars elevated the performances of the Rush troupe. To a person, the supporting cast was committed to not doing impressions, but capturing the essence of the characters they were honored to portray.
Olivia Wilde, known to audiences from her work on the medical drama House, M.D., as well as such films as TRON: Legacy and Drinking Buddies, plays Suzy Miller Hunt, the famous model whom James marries, then neglects. The actress jumped at the chance to work with Howard. “Ron is incredibly collaborative,” she gives. “He trusts his actors and crew, hiring the right people for their parts in the machine and then he lets it roll. That’s why there are all these lightning-in-a-bottle moments that make his films so effective. He understands both the emotional and technical side of acting, marrying those two challenges to bring a character to life and get it into the film appropriately.”
The actress found her character—who went on to have a torrid love affair with Richard Burton—the perfect foil for Hunt. She suggests: “Suzy is everything James would have wanted at that high point of his career, when everything was exciting and new. Then, as time goes on, things become more difficult. They have to grow up, and we see Suzy become more conscious of what she needs in order to be happy. She can’t live for James and take care of him as he needs. She has to take care of herself.”
While many co-stars clamor for more screen time, Wilde has a refreshing take on her part. She shares: “Sometimes, you read a scene and don’t understand the significance of it in the story. But when you shoot it, you understand why it’s a vital piece. In my supporting role there’s one scene in particular that felt that way: when Suzy watches James win the championship. It’s everything he’s ever wanted, and she wants it for him. She has an incredibly emotional reaction to it, and you sense her love for him. It humanizes him, and certainly her as well. That was the moment when I felt proud of what we had done with that small slice of the story because it’s not just a failed love affair. There was something tragic about what they tried to do but couldn’t. Still, there was a part of their love that survived, nonetheless.”
Hunt wasn’t the only driver to feel the passionate love of a gorgeous woman. Romanian-born Alexandra Maria Lara, known for her work in such diverse projects as Anton Corbijn’s Control, Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth and Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, was brought aboard to portray Lauda’s wife Marlene. Lara echoes Wilde’s sentiments about their captain: “Ron’s amazing because he has this incredible energy that makes younger people look rather lazy. There were so many details he had to concentrate on that needed to be perfect. At the same time, he laughs a lot and is a very warm person as well. He makes an actor feel comfortable, free and good on the set. I was absolutely blown away. I really loved working with Ron.”
In contrast to the jetsetter that was Suzy Miller, Marlene Lauda is the ever-supportive wife and partner, even after her husband’s disfiguring accident. “We shot some very intense scenes in the hospital after the accident,” Lara provides. “As difficult as it was for her to imagine her husband risking his life on the track again, she had no choice but to say, ‘You have to carry on.’ That was incredible to me because at first Marlene thinks she has lost her husband, that there was no chance of surviving this tragic accident. The whole experience must have been so traumatic and heartbreaking. But she was the type of woman who understood his passion and didn’t stop him from getting back into the car.”
Of course, not all of Marlene and Niki’s time together was tragedy. “We also shot a scene where they spend some wonderful days together before the accident,” provides Lara. “He relaxes a little bit, maybe for the first time. It’s a moment in which he realizes he has something to live for besides racing.”
Coincidentally, Lara and Brühl share the same agent, but they’d not worked together before. Still, their chemistry clicked from the beginning. “I was very impressed after the read-through,” Lara says. “They can be quite a dry thing normally, many people sitting around the table, but Daniel gave a good impression of how he would play the part. In my opinion, it’s a brilliant performance.”
Italian-native PIERFRANCESCO FAVINO, who co-starred in Howard’s Angels & Demons and was last seen in World War Z, was brought on to portray Lauda’s competition at Ferrari, infamous Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni. Coincidentally, Favino had done an Italian television film about Enzo Ferrari and was familiar with this world. Eager to once again work with Howard, the performer advises Regazzoni was a childhood hero: “I remember him from his big moustache and the fact that he was Swiss-Italian. We were all great fans of him.” As he researched more of the F1 world, Favino became fascinated by the “hyper-human heroes who face the possibility of death—and the adrenaline rush that comes with it—every day.”
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Christian McKay plays Lord Hesketh, a major influence in James Hunt’s early racing career. Alexander Hesketh, the Third Baron Hesketh, was a motor racing enthusiast who used money from a large inheritance to fund Hesketh Racing. Hunt, who was about the same age as the baron, started with Hesketh in Formula 3 and eventually moved up with a Hesketh car to F1, until his patron ran short of funds. The flamboyant lord and his team were perfect fits for Hunt.
McKay remarks that he was intrigued by the jingoism and ancient rivalries Morgan elucidated in his script. He says, “Lord Hesketh is one of those rather wonderful, larger-than-life characters that you couldn’t invent. We met people who knew him who said he was even more outrageous than I’m playing him, which is quite a thing. He spent his family’s entire fortune on Formula 1. Later, this incredible character became chief whip in the House of Lords for John Major’s government.”
STEPHEN MANGAN, of Billy Elliot fame, co-stars as Alastair Caldwell, Hunt’s chief mechanic at McLaren who served as a technical and historical realism consultant on Rush. Mangan had both the advantage and the added challenge of having the real Caldwell’s presence on set: “It was fantastic to have the real guy right there. Fantastic and slightly annoying, because if you get anything wrong he’ll go, ‘No, it wasn’t like that.’ So I’d have to say, ‘We’re making a film, not a documentary.”
British sitcom Green Wing’s JULIAN RHIND-TUTT was cast as Anthony “Bubbles” Horsley, Hunt’s chief mechanic at Hesketh. “Bubbles was one of James’ principal mechanics in the early part of his career and remained a confidante throughout his racing life,” Rhind-Tutt says. “They were a very close-knit team, and I think Bubbles viewed Lauda the same as James. He was part of the rivalry and one of the strategists for Hunt’s tactics. I didn’t get to meet Bubbles before filming, but we have done a lot of research into the team dynamics and the group that was supporting James. We hope we’ve captured the flavor of that camaraderie.”
Providing the on-screen racing commentary is Cloud Atlas’ALISTAIR PETRIE, who portrayed legendary driver-turned-analyst Stirling Moss. “Moss was retired by the time Hunt and Lauda were racing in 1976 but he was still very much a part of that world,” Petrie says. “He showed James Hunt the ropes and, I think, a few good times in Monaco. Formula 1 is built on the rivalries. There are team rivalries in other sports but with racing, it’s a man in a car against another man in a car. Hunt and Lauda’s rivalry was one of the most famous. I think the public took to their relationship because of the nature of a sporting rivalry, which we all love to live vicariously through.”
Rounding out the team is Goya’s Ghosts’ DAVID CALDER, who portrays Louis Stanley, the colorful chair of British Racing Motors; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’s NATALIE DORMER as Gemma, Hunt’s extremely attentive nurse; and The Bourne Ultimatum’s COLIN STINTON as American racing entrepreneur Teddy Mayer.
Design and Locations
With a global television audience of more than a half billion, Formula 1 is the highest class of single-seater auto racing in the world. Sanctioned by FIA, the “formula” refers to the set of rules with which all participants’ cars must comply. Under the leadership of director Bernie Ecclestone, who turned F1 into a billion dollar business, the 1970s saw even greater commercial success for the enterprise.
The F1 championship season consists of a series of races known as the Grand Prix that are held on purpose-built circuits and public roads. The results of each race are combined with a points system to determine the annual World Championships, one for the drivers and one for the car manufacturers.
Although it began in Europe, F1’s popularity has transcended continental boundaries, with races now also held in the Americas, Asia and Oceania.
No surprises here, but a period film about an international sport required top talent, dedication, extensive research, long hours and hard work. To accomplish the myriad tasks ahead, the filmmakers recruited a talented and dedicated crew who were inspired by the work ethic of their director. “It was arduous, unbelievably demanding on everyone but we’re thrilled with what we got and how much of the flavor of Formula 1 we were able to capture,” Howard says. “We also captured a lot of the prerace moments, life in the paddock, the culture of Formula 1. And I believe we’ve re-created this period in a way that captures the glamour, the daring and the excitement of a very colorful time.”
With the deft hand he brought to the ambitious Slumdog Millionaire, production designer Mark Digby knew he had an incredibly challenging shoot ahead of him with Rush. By integrating all racing and support vehicles into historically accurate environments, he had the Herculean challenge of reimagining racetracks from Europe to Japan. “We had to create 12 to 15 different races each year from 1974 through 1976,” says Digby. “In addition to the racecars, there were lorries and caravans, ambulances and other support vehicles. There was the paddock area at each of the tracks where the mechanics work and bunting and signage to indicate we’re in a different country at a different Grand Prix…since we didn’t travel all around the world to do our filming.”
Adding to the authenticity was location filming at the British tracks Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Cadwell Park and Snetterton and at Germany’s notorious Nürburgring. Filming was also done at Blackbushe Airfield, a former drag racing venue in the U.K.
The most emotional part of the production for the crew was filming at Nürburgring, the site of Lauda’s horrifying crash. “We went to the actual spot where the incident occurred,” Howard says. “The first time I went there to scout, it was chilling. It was almost like entering a church, knowing Niki and what he went through and that we were going to re-enact it and re-create it. On the days of shooting, the adrenaline was pumping so we were not thinking so much philosophically. We were a little more practical, but everybody innately understood that there was something extraordinary about the opportunity to film there and the responsibility that involved.”
The director is most grateful for the chance to film in some extraordinary places during his long career. He reflects: “I’ve been lucky to film remarkable reefs in the Caribbean for underwater scenes in Splash and Cocoon, the Louvre for The Da Vinci Code, sacred places for Angels & Demons, weightless simulation facilities at NASA for Apollo 13 and Nixon’s Western White House for Frost/Nixon. Nürburgring was another one of those experiences like the Louvre, like NASA, where you are frankly just thankful that you are doing a job that allows you these experiences. It was a huge thrill and, most important of all, we got a great scene shooting there.”
In addition to the emotional impact, Howard took away from the shoot a better understanding of the expertise needed to negotiate one of the world’s most challenging racecourses. “I’m a neophyte, but I could tell the skill level required to excel at a place like this as we moved through that undulating, twisting track at Nürburgring,” Howard says. “It was like standing on a great golf course. You don’t have to participate in the sport to sense there’s something unique, specific and remarkable about a place.”
Howard is not a complete novice when it comes to films about fast cars. He starred in a pair of low-budget car-chase comedies in the mid-’70s, Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto, writing and making his directorial debut in the latter. The director also got a firsthand look at another famous racetrack. Shortly after filming wrapped, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway invited him to drive the pace car for the Brickyard 400, a NASCAR race held annually at the legendary track. NASCAR star Jeff Gordon hosted Howard during his first visit to Indy and introduced him in a prerace drivers’ meeting.
Rush proved to be a labor of love for Howard. In returning to an era he knew well in the milieu of a sport with which he was unfamiliar, he found endless overcomes. Still, he gives that this was one of his easiest films. “The obstacles presented in making Rush were considerable,” the director concludes. “The weather, re-creating the ’70s, replicating historical races: challenges were big and plentiful. But from a casting standpoint, this was one of the easiest films I’ve ever done. Everything came together.”
Reliving the Golden Age:
Autos and Camera Work
Howard prides himself at not repeating his work, and logically, every film he undertakes requires a unique set of challenges. Because of the enormous amount of research the team needed to wrap their heads around the racing world during this time period, filming Rush proved to be akin to shooting Apollo 13. The level to which every single department immersed itself in F1 and the period—its visual richness and technical details—was simply astonishing. From the on-site crews and tireless stunt doubles to the Oscar®-winning editing team of Mike Hill and Dan Hanley structuring the film in the bay, the shoot proved to be an incredibly collaborative effort on the part of everyone involved.
The filmmakers realized that without dramatic, realistic racing scenes, Rush could be left at the starting line. “We spent a huge amount of time figuring out the racing,” producer Eaton says. “Part of it is because coverage on television these days is so advanced that you’ve got to add something else from a filmic point of view. We spent a lot of time doing tests, and we looked at film of a lot of historic races. We created previsuals to re-create these moments conceptually. There was a huge desire on all our parts to get the detail and authenticity right.”
The challenge was not only to get the detail right but to present it in a way that no one had ever seen before. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who was awarded a much-deserved Oscar® for his work on Slumdog Millionaire, was up to the challenge. “Anthony is one of the most innovative cinematographers working today,” states producer Fellner. “For one scene, I believe he used more than 30 cameras, shooting all the different elements, pieces of the cars, the drivers.”
Mantle isn’t one to rest on his laurels. He gives: “You must increase ambitions with every film. You have to push the envelope to get the most out of every story, every scene. I’ve never had so many lenses out in my life. They were all over the place: on the cars, under the cars, up the tailpipes, on the roof, under the roof. It was mad, and I was pushing my crew to their limits.” He pauses: “But that pretty well describes the sport, doesn’t it? I’ve learned quite a bit about these historic F1 cars, and they’re beastly death machines, rolling coffins. When you strip away the oddly colored panels, there’s nothing there but a ticking time bomb with gallons of fuel under your backside.”
While the filmmakers couldn’t afford to take death-defying risks with their cars, they did have to recognize that the passion for authenticity among F1 fans would require extraordinary effort to satisfy. Co-producer JIM HAJICOSTA spent a year during development of Rush attending classic F1 motor sport events and networking with associations, motor sport engineering firms, owners and drivers of the F1s of the 1970s. He attended events across Europe to source the correct cars and, in some cases, have them restored for the movie’s scripted races. He also recruited many of the drivers—including former Grand Prix winner JOCHEN MASS—and managed the F1 department during production, working with an expert on classic car replicas, STUART MCCRUDDEN.
Owing to very high cornering speeds that are achieved through the generation of large amounts of aerodynamic down force, F1 cars are among the fastest circuit-racing cars in the world. Indeed, they race at speeds of up to 360 km/h (220 mph) with engines limited in performance to a maximum of 18,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). The cars are capable of lateral acceleration in excess of 5G in corners.
To place the audience in the drivers’ seats, Howard and Mantle attached cameras to the racers’ helmets. Hemsworth recalls what that was like: “It was quite heavy on one side and then they had to weight the other side, so you’ve got this great amount of weight on your head. It gets right in there on the eyeball, your pupil shifting in and out and little bits of light that it catches. They had reflections of the grandstand and people in it, in your eye. That’s how close it was. Can you imagine that on a 60-foot screen? It’s an impressive shot. You’re right in the drivers’ eyes, which will be awesome.”
It was interesting for Hemsworth to be integrated into the role of camera assistant. “Ron and Anthony did tricky things with the smaller handheld cameras, which they placed in various parts of the sets,” he conveys. “There’s an element of having just crept into the room and you’re overhearing something. They used some ’70s lenses so it has a real period feel to it. Anthony is beautiful with lighting. I kept calling him Rembrandt, the master of lighting, in there painting away.”
Hemsworth also received a deeper understanding of the man Hunt was when he climbed into a racing machine to shoot key scenes. “You get to understand how much power these guys had at their fingertips or feet,” he gives. “You’re inches from the ground; you’re strapped in. It’s a little cocoon—or coffin even, as it says in the script. You’re driving 170 miles per hour, right at the edge. Anybody in extreme sports where there’s a constant threat of death, there’s got to be some outlet for that as well. There’s an incredible amount of adrenaline but also a vulnerability that comes with it.
“On the days we drove and weren’t going anywhere near the speeds that the real drivers do, that straightaway made you think, ‘Oh, my God,’” the performer continues. “I could see where the addiction comes from, the love for that adrenaline because it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done or experienced. Senna talked about it. It was the closest he ever felt to God when he was driving at that speed, and that was when he truly felt in the moment, and one with it.”
Daniel Becomes Niki:
Prosthetics and Makeup
The portrayal of Niki Lauda’s post-Nürburgring disfigurement required much time in makeup with Academy Award®-winning prosthetic makeup designer MARK COULIER. “Of course, we needed prosthetics and that made me nervous at first,” Brühl says. “The funny thing was that after the first test, Mark’s assistants said he might get nominated in a half hour for the Oscars® for The Iron Lady. Mark started making the prosthetics while some other guys got bottles of champagne. We sat there following it through the Internet while I was half-burnt. He got the Oscar® and I knew I was in good hands.” The actor extends his good words to DP Mantle. “It’s incredible that Anthony comes in so close with his cameras to the prosthetics and you still can’t see it. You still believe my face is totally burnt. Amazing work.”
As with every detail of the film, Howard strove for authenticity on Lauda’s disfigurement. “There’s a section of Niki’s scarring within the hospital that the general public didn’t see,” says Emmy Award-winning makeup and hair designer FAE HAMMOND. “Ron really wanted to make a very big point of those. So there are a couple of scenes when we really feel the pain, the agony and the horror that went on. Mark was very clever. We probably had about eight stages of the makeup. It was very important to get it as correct and accurate as possible.”
The makeup and prosthetics team was also tasked with the more subtle challenge of making the actor look like the young, unscarred championship driver whose distinct image was well-known. “We added some false teeth for Daniel to give him that sort of ‘ratty’ shape,” Hammond explains. “Daniel sports a rather fine set of teeth, which we had some fun with. There are physical elements of Daniel that are so strongly there in the real Lauda but Daniel’s head has a slightly different shape, so you can’t just put Lauda hair on Daniel. You have to find a space that balances the rest of his face and body shape. I think it worked really well.”
Dressing the Times:
Gucci, Ferragamo and Nomex
Much of Rush takes place off the track, and Howard and his costume designer, Julian Day, wanted to celebrate the era. To accomplish, the production utilized two fashion houses: Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo. Gucci provided the clothes for Hemsworth and Wilde and Ferragamo provided the clothing for Brühl and Lara.
Explains Day, who gained much attention for his work on Nowhere Boy: “Both houses were extremely helpful, and I’m grateful to them. I went to Florence and met with the creative head of Ferragamo [Massimiliano Giornetti], and we talked about the characters. I designed some clothes with their help from their archival collections. I went to Rome and did the same with Gucci and met with Frida Giannini. In some ways, Gucci is more flamboyant, which suits James’ character, whereas Ferragamo is slightly more conservative, in a beautiful way. That suited Niki.”
As the style of the ’70s was unique and colorful on and off the track, historical verisimilitude had to be achieved by the wardrobe department as well. “If you take 1976, the year most featured, and look at Niki’s race suits, the advertising is all over the place,” shares Day. “That’s because he would be sponsored by such-and-such at one race, then that patch would come off and be replaced by another one for another race. To avoid confusing the audience, I had to keep the suits basic and consistent, and as Niki became more successful, we put more advertising on him. I did the same with all the drivers, certainly also for James.”
Day—who used to spend time on the Formula 1 circuit as a kid—also had the challenge of capturing ’70s couture without falling into cliché. It was important for the designer to honor F1, as his father used to reproduce models of the racing cars. In fact, a John Day model car is featured in Rush. “When you look at footage or photographs from the racetracks, you see a lot of primary colors,” Day says. “Ron and I felt these colors would work well for the race aspect of the film. Off-track, I’ve gone for more muted, smoky colors to reflect an idea of seeing life through a haze of cigarette smoke because it seemed like everyone smoked in the ’70s.”
Form followed function when it came to the F1 races and safety. Driver safety (as much as possible) was everything. The original race suits were very heavy, with three layers of Nomex and fireproof underwear serving as the foundation of the uniform. To achieve that look, Day went to a company called OMP Racing—which has been producing race wear for almost three decades—and created all of the film’s race suits, gloves and balaclavas. That, naturally, had to be adjusted for filming, Day shares: “Because the suits back then were so heavy, and the suits nowadays are the weight of a shirt, we came up with a look that was authentic but not as heavy as the original uniforms.”
Competition wasn’t only fierce among the racers, but between the houses financing them. Explains Day: “At the time, Ferrari and McLaren were the top teams, so McLaren would see what the Ferrari team was looking like…then they went out and got new uniforms and would have new adidas trainers for each race.”
Day worked on differentiating the fashions at different Grand Prix races and circuits. He went from two extremes: Fuji, where it rained, had a crowd that needed to be dressed in muted blacks, browns, grays, blues and wet-weather gear; in contrast, the fashion at Brazil, where samba dancers and grid girls wore bikini tops and shorts and high heels, showed fashion that was much more colorful. He provides: “The crowd is just as important as the principals; they’re the backdrop to everything. The idea was that you go to a Grand Prix and it would be all day. You’d take your picnic hamper, bag, a wet-weather coat, and over the process of the day if it got warmer, you’d start taking it off. Of course, people would tie it around their waist. That idea of making people look as real as possible was important to both me and Ron.”
While it would have been easy to devolve into stereotypical ’70s clothing, Day is quick to remind the reader that the era had something for all. He muses: “Everyone has their own opinion of how ’70s fashion looked. There were a lot of big collars and paisley patterns, but when you actually look at pictures from that time there was also a very normal side to the fashion. I wanted to create a good brushstroke across everything, so there’s depth to it and not everyone looks the same. When you’ve got 5,000 extras, you want everyone to look like an individual…not a huge block of ’70s-looking people.”
For Rhind-Tutt, this ’70s sartorial flashback was an added thrill. “It was like being at those long family parties when I was a little kid with the sister’s boyfriend in flares,” Rhind-Tutt recalls. “At that time, I was looking up to all the fashions. In Rush, I get to wear all those clothes that the grown-ups were wearing then. It was quite cool.”
Sounds of a Decade:
Music of the Film
With their collaborations on blockbusters from The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons to more intimate projects such as Frost/Nixon, Howard and Hans Zimmer, a Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Award® winner, once again joined forces for the sounds of Rush. Indeed, Zimmer composed 19 of the 24 songs for this spectacular big-screen re-creation of the F1 world of 1976.
In describing what he hoped Zimmer would accomplish through his music, Howard comments: “From the beginning I knew Rush would be a deceptively complex score. Hans so often finds creative impetus by closely examining the central characters, not only as written and directed but also as performed. He understood all the paradoxes in the characters, and the Rush score is another very impressive creation by the maestro.”
With songs from David Bowie (“Fame”), Steve Winwood (“Gimme Some Lovin’”) and Dave Edmunds (“I Hear You Knocking”) to pieces from Mud (“Dyna-Mite”) and Thin Lizzy (“The Rocker”), the Rush soundtrack reminds the audience of the signature sounds that accompanied the era, and why it was such a time of reinvention and revolution.
Balancing the racers’ simple desires with their frenetic-yet-controlled behavior on the track was a challenge for Howard and Zimmer as they created the soundtrack to the film. Whether in the intimate moments in which James finds himself alone with his pet budgies and Niki first meets Marlene or James’ loose-cannon tantrums and the raging inferno at Nürburgring that forever changed Lauda’s life, Zimmer captured the spirit of the world in which they lived and raced.
Zimmer’s work had another fan on the production. “When I was watching the movie with the Formula 1 community, I realized what a fantastic job Hans has done,” says Lauda. “I was simply blown away. Part of the standing ovations go to him.”
Universal Pictures and Cross Creek Pictures present, with Exclusive Media—in association with Imagine Entertainment—a Revolution Films/Working Title/Imagine Entertainment production of a Ron Howard film: Chris Hemsworth in Rush, starring Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Pierfrancesco Favino. The film’s casting is by Nina Gold, and its costume designer is Julian Day. Rush’s music is by Hans Zimmer, and it is edited by Dan Hanley, ACE, Mike Hill, ACE. The production designer is Mark Digby, and the director of photography is Anthony Dod Mantle, ASC, BSC, DFF. Rush’s co-producers are Anita Overland, Jim Hajicosta, and its executive producers are Guy East, Nigel Sinclair, Tobin Armbrust, Tim Bevan, Tyler Thompson, Todd Hallowell. The epic action-drama is produced by Andrew Eaton, Eric Fellner, Brian Oliver, Peter Morgan, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard. Rush is written by Peter Morgan, and it is directed by Ron Howard. © 2013 Universal Studios www.rushmovie.com