Rush…fact and fiction

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We haven’t spoken too much about the upcoming movie Rush by Ron Howard. We’re excited about the movie, no doubt, but like all things in life, moderation is a good rule of thumb.

I’ve seen Tweets, posts, stories and over-the-top hype of the movie (just like the Senna movie) and to be honest, that kind of thing leaves me a little cold. Ron Howard has been on the grid of numerous races this year with microphones and cameras jammed in his face with questions about his film and the current title battle in 2013. A great marketing coup by Ron but not the kind of hype I choose to engage in. I’ll wait and praise Ron’s film when I see it.

The issue for me is that Ron is a terrific guy who seems very humble with the success he has had. He seems very approachable and one of the more likable humans out of Hollywood. That’s really refreshing and I would love to sit and have a chat with him.

Having said that, he’s admittedly not a Formula 1 expert or historian and for that reason I tend to find the constant media attention and interviews during race coverage weekends a bit annoying. Why are the media gushing to ask Ron about the Lauda / Hunt battle when the main player is just 60 yards down the pitlane wearing a red ball cap? Go ask the leading man in the real movie of life what he thinks about his battle with Hunt in 1976.

How Ron interprets the 1976 championship will become important to me whilst watching the movie but not while he’s standing on the grid in Monaco. If I want to know more about the actual 1976 battle, I’d prefer to hear that from the man who nearly died fighting it and not for 45 seconds on the grid in Monaco or Canada.

Many interviewers are asking Ron what it was all about back in 1976, what was F1 like back then—as if he was standing next to Nigel Roebuck taking copious notes at each race. He wasn’t. He doesn’t have a clue of what was going on back then. It’s only recently that he’s interviewed the players and learned about the 1976 season in order to create a movie. Sir Frank Williams could tell you, Roebuck could tell you, Niki could tell you and many, many more on the grid today. Nothing against Ron at all but an expert on Formula 1 in 1970’s, let alone 1976, he is not. He’s an incredibly talented filmmaker. I bet he could tell you what 1970’s Hollywood was like down to the sights, sounds and smells.

As Sylvester Stallone taught us, doing a movie about Formula 1 today is practically impossible, as Mr. E makes that perfectly clear. So Driven was created to most everyone’s horror. Ron Howard chose wisely to capture an era that doesn’t require constant oversight from Mr. E’s phalanx of lieutenants. Great move Ron!

We really should be excited about Ron and what he’s created and how he’s chosen to cover the sport because most racing movies are pure money losers. I’m elated by the notion that he would cast his talent on F1 and picked a great year in which to ply his craft.

From all accounts I’ve heard (speaking with journos who have seen the movie) the final production is terrific. That’s no surprise for me as Mr. Howard knows what he’s doing on the working end of a camera. But today I read the first story I really appreciated about the film.

A big hat tip to the Telegraph’s Sarah Crompton for daring to brush against the grain of sycophantic hype by asking the simple question…how accurate is this film? Check out her story here.

Sarah reminds us of a few “creative liberties” taken to “spice up the show”.

“For example, after Hunt’s victory in the Spanish Grand Prix – the first sign that he might actually challenge Lauda for the title – it is Lauda who reports the McLaren car for being an illegal width and gets him disqualified. It was not; it was a member of the Ferrari team.”

That’s fair enough because every movie needs an antagonist just as the Senna movie portrayed Alain Prost as the man who drew first blood and propelled the young Brazilian to do what he did. That simply is not accurate.

“Equally, when Lauda calls a drivers’ meeting to try to get the fateful German race cancelled, on screen it is Hunt who leads the opposition, giving the impression that Lauda is attempting to rig the championship.”

That is something that could also be understandable to keep the continuity of the movie going forward. Niki most likely never had a need to rig anything but if you put yourself in the role as moviemaker, you can see where this would be a more cohesive story for viewers not familiar with Formula 1. At the end of the day, it has to be a movie for the masses and not a Formula 1 documentary for the few right?

“It is never mentioned that the rivals were friendly enough to share a flat as young men; there is a famous photograph of them chatting that reveals levels of kinship that the film only belatedly hints at.”

Movies tend to need tension to keep the audience in the seats and it’s completely understandable why they would choose to keep this relationship at arms length. It builds tension for a riveting dénouement.

Are these horrible things? Absolutely not. They are simple ways to keep a story compelling and part of the movie-making craft. After all, even Ron Howard said this isn’t a documentary but an interpretation.

For those new to Formula 1, I do think Sarah’s piece is important. While this isn’t a documentary and is most likely a brilliant film (because Ron knows how to do that), it is important to know the fact from the fiction. I applaud her for being one of the few to actually look critically at this movie. She diverged from the chorus of sycophants to not only praise the film for what it is but also set the record straight so as to not confuse history with a brilliant film made to entertain us.

I really like Ron Howard, his body of work and the fact that he’s chosen to focus on F1. Just stop asking him what F1 was all about in the 1970’s and stop treating him as the new mouthpiece for all things F1. Go ask Alan Henry, Nigel Roebuck, Maurice Hamilton or some of the drivers who survived that time period what it was like, that would be more compelling than any movie in my book.

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Alastair J. Archibald

In fact, for the Japan Grand Prix, (the one at which Niki dropped out and James became World Champion), the two drivers had a chat together and agreed that they didn’t want to race that day. James said even the World Championship wasn’t worth dying for. He didn’t campaign for the race to go ahead, and he certainly didn’t sway the other drivers. If anyone did, it was Clay Regazzoni and Ronnie Petersen.