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More Formula 1 films planned

TDK-Batmobile-ToyotaRace.jpgWith the success of Senna and the upcoming Rush from Ron Howard and Peter Morgan as well as the attempt to bring Formula 1 to America once again with two new races arriving in the country, it would seem that F1 is seeing a little bit of a resurgence in America as well as Hollywood.

It's been a long time coming though since it's fair to say that Grand Prix in 1966 was the last, and indeed only, decent Formula 1 film there's been, in fact I'm hard pressed to think of another pure F1 film. Yet it doesn't look like it's going to end there as more F1 films are in development.

The documentary Senna was a huge hit, and quite rightly so, appealing to massive audiences and capturing the imagination of people who had probably never even seen a Formula 1 race in their lives. Now though the audience is primed and it might be time to attempt something as grand as John Frankenheimer's amazing Grand Prix once more.

I've always said that there is so much material in Formula 1 that could make it to film for there's everything in there that would reach across the thriller and action genre with ease. Firstly Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport with some of the most challenging racing there is pushing drivers to their limit; the on track action between teams; the on track action amongst teams with so many famous stories of the battles between drivers; the off track action between drivers both of different teams and even the same team; in team battles between drivers and team management; the battles between the teams that have spilled out onto race day, into the courts with calls of spying and even race fixing, and the politics even extends to those in charge of the sport.

There's so much there that's been untapped for so long but it never seems to draw the attention of the film-makers, but why is that? One reason is because the studios are in Hollywood and Hollywood is in America and America is not F1 friendly at all, and the other is because of the people who own the rights to the sport, very astute business minds, do seem focused on protecting the sport and making as much money from every deal as they can.

However that tide looks like it's turning with the documentary Senna breaking new ground and reviving old and the upcoming Rush film about the championship battle between Niki Lauda and James Hunt that saw Lauda crash mid-season in a horrifying accident and come back a few races later to race under terrible pain, focused on winning the championship over anything.

Rush is written by Peter Morgan and directed by Ron Howard and carries a cast of Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth and Olivia Wilde, so it's not being treated as a small production by any means.

With these two films the question is, could we be seeing Hollywood taking a look to Formula 1 films?

An article in Variety that discusses the film Rush points out that there are a number of other Formula 1 films in various stages of development and production.

Manish Pandey is the writer and executive producer of Senna and he's developing a film about the early days of the Ferrari F1 team in the 1950's, a legendary time for the team. The film is co-written by Tim Nuthall and with the Shakespearean producer Julia Taylor-Stanley behind the project which is being touted as carrying a US $50-60 million budget.

This sounds an exciting prospect and it makes sense to make a film about the team that has the most passionate fans around the world and would see non-F1 fans drawn to the film as well. The period for Ferrari is a tough one with ups and downs, successful drivers, terrifying accidents and deaths, and a desire to make Ferrari recognised through the sport. It certainly will pack an audience of Ferrari fans.

The film is set to follow the true story, or at least semi-true story, of two English drivers who raced for the team and who were also trying to win the same woman, and Pandey admits that the film is far more out of the seat than in, and suddenly I'm feeling disheartened.

Yet it's only the beginning and this is a way to bring people to the F1 film without losing them in the idea of the terrible films of the past.

This isn't the only one though, the list continues with:

Frank Mannion is developing a script called Racing Bull which tells the story of how the legendary and already hugely successful Formula 1 car designer Adrian Newey joined the Red Bull Racing team and helped lift them from their already very successful arrival in Formula 1 to a championship winning team.

The article paints this as Red Bull coming from nowhere and Newey having the success of his career making Red Bull who they are today but it isn't quite that way. Red Bull were new but were already doing very well, although not championship winning, and had surprised many in the sport. Newey had already proven himself many times with Williams and McLaren, showing that he was the designer to have and helping them to championship after championship. Still you can see the appeal of the story and Red Bull was a relatively new team.

Apparently that film just awaits the sanction of Bernie Ecclestone. Don't hold your breath.

Amazingly there's mention of the classic Grand Prix and a remake of John Frankenheimer's 1966 film. Apparently producer Peter Douglas is working on a new version which I think would be nigh on impossible. This type of film would need Ecclestone and a majority of the teams involved, at this point the budget would be huge and that's just signing them up.

Thinking of what Grand Prix did and the amazing access it had to some of the races, cars and drivers, you just can't see that being made these days without a budget akin to Avatar.

One project that is mentioned that is very close to my heart, being a long time fan of Formula 1 and from Scotland, is the biographical film of the legendary Jackie Stewart, adapting his biography (which I have and signed too) called Winning is Not Enough (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com). Producer Bill Pohlad is working on that project.

The story of Jackie Stewart offers a lot more than a world class driver races some of the fastest and most dangerous cars and circuits in the world for Stewart went against the people behind the sport and the circuits and fought for better protection for drivers, teams and spectators, causing the temporary closure of circuits and the beginning of the safety revolution that has ended up saving so many lives in the sport. Through his own career he saw some of his closest friends killed in horrific races and kept on racing and kept on fighting for better safety.

Jeremy Thomas is producing a film about the Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve, another famous racing driver in Formula 1 and a story which would tap into another strong audience.

Dan Gilroy, who wrote Real Steel, is working on a script about an American driver who is trying to get into Formula 1, something that sounds like it would have as much of the politics and behind the scenes story as it would the on track action. That does sound like a promising film.

From some previous stories there's Racing Patriots that Dana MacDuff and Brandon MacDuff wrote which Eric Stoltz was set to direct that follows three racing champions who worked with the French resistance during World War II - William Grover-Williams, Robert Benoist and Jean Pierre Wimille which was mentioned back in May of 2010.

In December of the same year there was mention of a film about the racing legend James Hunt, instead of concentrating on the one season of his with Lauda and looking more to Lauda's terrible crash and comeback, it was going to look at his entire career and life. The film was backed by DreamWorks and was being adapted from the book by Tom Rubython called Shunt: The Story of James Hunt (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com), well once they had a writer. What they did have were producers and Alex Pettyfer was one who was tipped to play Hunt, once again though nothing more was heard on the project.

Right now the promise of Formula 1 films looks good, and if those behind the sport can sign off on some of these films and give them the access they need it would surely help to build the audience for the sport in America and in return bring them more revenue in the years to come.

For me I'm most excited about the Jackie Stewart film, the Dan Gilory script, and Ron Howard's Rush, but any successful film about the sport that paves the way for more is alright by me.



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