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GP Week : Issue 207
a Champ Car project, and director Renny Harlin took great pains to point out that he was making every effort to make the film feel authentic. In fact, at a media conference on the Gold Coast in 2000, Harlin (who was in town with an unfathomably huge entourage to shoot a few minutes of atmosphere vision at heaven knows what cost) told the assembled press that such was the effort being put into editing the fictional races (German ‘GP’ on a oval, in the wet, anyone?) he bet that we could not pick which circuits were which. At that point some media smartypants – okay, it was me – asked him for how much that bet would be... Then there is ‘Days of Thunder’. I have no problem with Tom Cruise portraying a racing driver, even one from ‘back east’ who adapts from racing open wheelers to Stock Cars with the speed and proficiency Danica Patrick can only dream of. Likewise, Robert Duvall is fine as the crusty crew chief with a heart of gold, and I can even forgive co-producer Don Simpson for sneaking into a scene to play a NASCAR driver with an Italian name. Who wouldn’t want to portray a NASCAR driver if they could (plus, his character is actually a sly tribute to Mario Andretti, which is just fine by me). No, it’s this; I am just not convinced that, once Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) has his (spoiler alert) Big Crash and his career is hanging in the balance, he puts said career (and a few other extremities, probably) in the hands of one Dr Claire Lewicki. It may well be that the fictional Lewicki had excelled at her fictional studies during her fictional tenure at fictional medical school, but all that is a bit difficult for the viewer to take in, since the rather fetching Nicole Kidman was cast in the role of a neurosurgeon AT THE AGE OF 22. ‘Talladega Nights’? Too oddball. ‘Cars’? Too... American. Swap the cars for people and animation for live action and you have ‘Doc Hollywood’ or any one of a dozen other American movies. ‘Cars 2’? Pul-leaze; did anyone, anywhere bother watching Cars 2? ‘W inning’ is not a great movie, but it did have a significant impact on the sport. To take on the role of driver Frank Capua Paul Newman spent time learning how to drive a racecar and, somewhat to his own surprise, found that motor racing was “the first thing that I ever found I had any grace in” , as he explained later. He became sufficiently adept to race among professionals, culminating with a second place finish at Le Mans in 1979 in a Kremer Porsche 935 co-driven by Rolf Stommelen and Dick Barbour. His partnerships as a team owner, notably with Carl Haas, won championships. Steve McQueen coveted the role of Pete Aron and while ‘Grand Prix’ was in development, was involved in a similar motor racing project that never led to an actual movie. But in 1971 he appeared in ‘Le Mans’, in which he played American Gulf Porsche driver Michael Delaney – who utters the immortal line, “When you’re racing, it ... it’s life. Anything that happens before or after ... is just waiting.” The production team had unprecedented cooperation from Le Mans promoters ACO, and their Porsche 908 camera car actually ran in the race, covering 282 laps (in spite of frequent stop to change film stock in its multiple cameras). But the movie is so moody and introspective that once you have seen the on-track vision, there really isn’t much left to enjoy. And finally... ‘Bobby Deerfield’. In 1976, Al Pacino spent a summer in Europe, pretending to be an F1 driver. Carlos Pace, who doubled for him driving the Brabham, was tragically killed before the movie was released. Marthe Keller played Deerfield’s love interest, a beautiful woman who provides the moral of the story; it is, life is too short to sit still for two hours and watch ‘Bobby Deerfield’. Which brings me back to ‘Grand Prix’. Even 48 years after it was made, I think that it stands up brilliantly. The on-track stuff still gets the blood racing and Garner (who was also one of the film’s producers) is great. Director John Frankenheimer clearly knew how to shoot moving cars – witness the heart-stopping car chases in ‘Ronin’ and even his 2001 BMW Films short ‘Ambush’. So, do yourself a favour; clear a few hours from your schedule, sit down and watch ‘Grand Prix’. The next great racing movie has not yet been made. Though I have one in development. A smiling young Australian driver arrives at the fictional Blue Horse Racing to take on the World Champion, a moody yet sensitive German. The narrative is told through the eyes of a wise (yet surprisingly good-looking journalist) lurking in the background. No parts have been cast yet. Brad, George, call me. We’ll do lunch ... F1 >>> FEATUrE ABOVe Yves Montand's Ferrari was bolted to the back of a GT40. RIGHT Cameramen took the odd risk too! RIGHT Steve McQueen missed out on starring in 'Grand Prix' but did so in 'Le Mans'. 24 GPWEEK.com // 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: