The year, make, and model were quite different but Rush filmmaker Ron Howard has felt the rumbling power of iconic cars when it comes to engines of cinema and symbolism. It was 40 years ago this summer that one of the ultimate automobile movies, American Graffiti, rumbled into box office history and steered Howard toward television and Happy Days.
Howard is a two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker and with Rush (featured in the first-look poster above with star Chris Hemsworth) and its fact-based tale of Formula One racing rivalry in 1976 he found himself feeling like he was covering some familiar road — but it wasn’t films about wheels on asphalt that hit close to home.
“People ask what has Rush been like and I say from a filmmaking standpoint it’s been kind of like a cross between Apollo 13 and Backdraft,” says Howard, who other films include The DaVinci Code, Splash and A Beautiful Mind. “In the case of Apollo 13, that’s for the complexity and the authenticity and the intent to capture an era and an endeavor that blends technology, action and danger.”
Howard added a hairpin segue: “But, then speaking of danger, it reminds me of Backdraft because those fires scared me and so did shooting racing action in this film. I was happy when we wrapped Backdraft and frankly it was the same reaction this time. The relief of it, I was just as happy when we wrapped Rush.”
Rush stars Hemsworth of Thor fame as driver James Hunt and Daniel Brühl as his nemesis, Niki Lauda,but while they put their lives on the line (like astronauts and firefighters) the Formula One demi-gods were surrounded with a bubble of glamour and rock-star swagger that makes them seem more like princes addicted to danger than dedicated souls called to duty.
The director said the elite European scene was as close to cocky Jagger as it was to quietly cool Yeager. “Folks from the era are fond of saying of the 1970s F1 racing that’s it time when when sex was safe and driving was dangerous. That’s the way they lived. These folks aren’t forthcoming with a lot of details but there are a lot of winks and nods. I really did sort of fall in love with the sport. I love teams but yet the draivers are really unique talents and fascinating personalities, which is why I was involved in the story that [Frost/Nixon screenwriter] Peter Morgan wrote these characters brilliantly and there’s great acting opportunities blended with this cool, visceral action. I also loved the blend of teamwork and the state-of-the-art technology and, throughout, the wall-to-wall aggressive action.”