Cronenberg's F1 movie blockbuster given the red flag by Ecclestone
David Cronenberg has revealed that he came tantalisingly close to making a big budget film about motor racing but that the project stalled and then crashed because of the demands of Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone.
Speaking after the Venice Film Festival, the Canadian director and die-hard race fan said that in 1986, he was recruited by the then Paramount Pictures boss, Ned Tanen, to develop a Formula One movie. Cronenberg was sent on reconnaissance trips to Grand Prix races in Australia and Mexico.
"I had meetings with Bernie to talk to him about how we might structure a Formula One movie that was modern at the time and could we, for example, invent a team and have a pit for our team," Cronenberg told The Independent.
Ecclestone was initially responsive to the proposals. "All of these things he was talking about as being possible," the director said. "Of course, ultimately it would have come down to money."
Cronenberg revealed he was planning to recruit the Finnish driver Keke Rosberg, a former Formula One world championship winner, to drive the camera car. During his research, he spoke to several drivers, including the late Ayrton Senna, the legendary Brazilian world champion.
"I asked him [Senna] about dreaming," Cronenberg said. The Brazilian replied that he "dreamed the racetrack. It's almost like I am practising the racetrack in my dreams." Asked the same question, Rosberg replied abruptly: "No. Why would I dream about the racetrack? I spend too much time of my waking life on the racetracks."
Cronenberg, the director of Naked Lunch, Crash and the recent Freud/Jung, biopic A Dangerous Method, is an accomplished driver himself and has raced vintage cars (including Formula One models from the 1950s.)
The Canadian director's research did not entirely go to waste. He later completed a screenplay, Red Cars, about the American driver Phil Hill winning the Formula One world championship for Ferrari in 1961.
While the film has never been made, Cronenberg published a lavishly illustrated, limited edition "art book" version of the screenplay in 2005.
The revelation came as Ron Howard started shooting his own motor racing film, Rush, waving the flag on the race to make the first major feature set against the backdrop of Formula One since John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix in 1966. Howard's film, scripted by British writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), will tell the story of the flamboyant British playboy James Hunt (Thor actor Chris Hemsworth) and his arch-rival Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) in the 1970s.
The recent box-office success of Asif Kapadia's feature documentary Senna has shown there is audience appetite to see motor racing on the big screen.
The fact that the Howard film is already under way suggests Rush, unlike Cornenberg, must have Ecclestone's blessing.
Bernie Ecclestone did not respond to calls yesterday.
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