The Real Story: “Rush” and the Formula One Rivalry Between Hunt and Lauda

Posted on September 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

“Rush,” directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan, is the story of the rivalry between 1970’s Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  Much of it is true, including many of the statements made by the characters and the outcomes of the races, but this is not a documentary.  There is some dramatic license to convey in two hours the events of several years.  (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read further if you have not seen the movie.)  For example, the real life vote about whether to proceed with the race in the rain was not overwhelmingly in favor of proceeding.  It was won by a single vote.

1975-james-suzy-hunt

James Hunt‘s official Formula One Hall of Fame page describes him: “As a colourful personality and unconventional character he had no peers – alternately entertaining admirers and offending critics with his often outrageous behaviour…James worked at odd jobs, bought a wrecked Mini and spent two years race-preparing it, only to have his first entry fail scrutineering because the driver’s seat was an old lawn chair.  Many of his early races ended in huge accidents. In one of them his Formula Ford crashed and sank in the middle of a lake. He might have drowned had he been wearing the requisite seatbelts he couldn’t afford to buy.”

As shown in the film, he did originally get his funding from Lord Hesketh, who ran out of money when he could not secure a sponsor after moving Hunt from Formula Three to the more expensive Formula One.  Hesketh’s group was known for its champagne before races and putting the crew up in luxury hotels.  James Hunt did marry the model Suzy Hunt and she did leave him for Richard Burton.  Suzy Hunt married Burton after his second divorce from Elizabeth Taylor.  Burton paid the $1 million divorce settlement that would otherwise have been James Hunt’s responsibility.  Hunt became a racing commentator and died at age 42.

LaudaNiki Lauda is serious-minded Austrian who was Formula One champion three times.  His Formula One Hall of Fame page describes his accident: “In hospital, with first to third degree burns on his head and wrists, several broken bones and lungs scorched from inhaling toxic fumes, Niki Lauda was given up for dead and administered the last rites by a priest.  Six weeks later, with blood seeping from the bandages on his head, he finished fourth in the Italian Grand Prix. Astonished doctors said he had recovered by sheer force of will. Jackie Stewart said it was the most courageous comeback in the history of sport. Niki said the loss of half an ear made it easier to use the telephone. In consideration of those who found his facial disfigurement unsightly he thereafter wore a red baseball cap, hiring it out to a sponsor for a hefty fee.”

The rivalry was real.  But there was friendship there, too.  The men actually even roomed together for a while.  And when Hunt died, Lauda said, “For me, James was the most charismatic personality who’s ever been in Formula One.”

 

Related Tags:

 

Spoiler Alert The Real Story

List: Movies About Racing Cars

Posted on September 27, 2013 at 8:00 am

In honor of this week’s release of “Rush,” based on the real rivalry of Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, take a look at these movies about racing, some featuring actors who raced cars off screen as well.

Winning Real-life race car driver Paul Newman co-stars with his wife, Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner in this story of the pressure that the racing life puts on the marriage of a competitive driver.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-eMIFbV0po

Days of Thunder The least believable neurosurgeon in the history of movies is Nicole Kidman in this story of a hot-headed racecar driver (Tom Cruise), but Robert Duvall and the racing scenes make it worthwhile.

The Love Bug series Disney’s beloved little VW Bug with 53 on the side competes with race cars.

The Cannonball Run Burt Reynolds and a bunch of comics star in this goofy story of an illegal cross-country race.

Heart Like a Wheel Bonnie Bedelia brings as much heart to her performance as Shirley Muldowney, the real-life race car driver she portrayed, brought to her ground-breaking achievements as a woman in professional racing.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Will Ferrell stars in this spoof of racing films, co-starring John C. Reilly, Sasha Baron Cohen, and Leslie Bibb.

Le Mans Steve McQueen plays an American driver in the title race.

Grand Prix James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, and Toshiro Mifune are the actors, but the star is the photography in John Frankenheimer’s film about Formula One drivers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chbqa-u8c4c

Driven It’s not a good movie, but writer/director Sylvester Stallone manages to put some exciting car action on screen.

 

Related Tags:

 

For Your Netflix Queue Lists Neglected gem

Don Jon

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm

don jon posterActor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has made a remarkably assured debut as writer/director, putting him in the front ranks of today’s filmmakers. Gordon-Levitt also plays the lead role, Jon, a New Jersey guy with a high and tight haircut and a spare and immaculate apartment decorated in gray and black. He reels off the list of things he cares about: his body (for working out), his car (for driving and looking cool), his boys (friends), his girls (for sex), his church (for confession), his family (for Sunday dinners), and porn (you know what that is for). Those are the parameters of his life, and that seems fine to him because he knows who he is and how things fit together.  The title is a reference to the legendary libertine who symbolizes all men who seduce many women without forming any attachments to them.

Jon and his friends like to go to the club and rank the ladies, an endlessly fascinating conversation about various body parts and the optimal shapes and proportions of each. Sex with those ladies is primarily a contest between the men, and Jon is by far the leader. His success with nines and “dimes” (a ten) is about status and competition, and he tells us that he prefers pornography to sex with real girls. One night, Jon sees a solid dime named Barbara (Scarlett Johansson).  For the first time, he becomes involved with a woman who is more than a one-night stand and he has to earn her affection.  She has her own ideas of what a “dime” equivalent looks like, and he finds himself going to romantic comedy movies and taking a community college class.  He even brings her home to meet his family, where she gets a very enthusiastic response from his parents (a wonderful Glenne Headley and Tony Danza).

And then things get more complicated.  Gordon-Levitt has crafted a whip-smart, richly cinematic film with some very funny moments and a lot of heart.  He makes it clear that Jon is not the only one who is numbing his feelings.  His father is more absorbed in watching the football games than in talking to his family and Barbara’s aspirations are almost as based on fantasy as the images Jon connects to online.  Watch how the settings help tell the story, and style of the movie changes as Jon goes from the techno-pumping macho world of his friends to the more romantic, orchestral environment of dating.  And then it shifts again as other changes happen.  Keep an eye on Jon’s sister, played by the superb Brie Larson (“The Spectacular Now,” “Short Term 12”), who appears to be as addicted to her devices as Jon, never saying a word to her family as she stares into her phone, texting back and forth.  She will make it clear that she has been more connected to what is going on with the people she loves than anyone else in the film.  And Julianne Moore gives an earthy but sensitive performance as a classmate of Jon’s who surprises and disconcerts him with her honesty.

Seeing Jon begin to learn to interact with the world with feelings, not just sensations, is a pleasure. But seeing one of today’s best young actors bloom into one of tomorrow’s best young filmmakers is even greater.

Parents should know that this movie is about a young man who is addicted to pornography.  It includes very explicit sexual references and situations, nudity, very strong and crude language, drinking, and drugs.

Family discussion:  How did other characters aside from Jon find ways to avoid their feelings?  How did Joseph Gordon-Levitt use different film-making styles to show the different moods of his time with his friends, with Barbara, and with Esther?

If you like this, try: “Thanks for Sharing” and some of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s other films like “Brick” and “Mysterious Skin”

Related Tags:

 

Comedy Date movie Drama Romance

Rush

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm

RUSHThe immensely gifted screenwriter Peter Morgan reunites with his “Frost/Nixon” director Ron Howard and returns to his favorite theme, a real-life drama about the clash between two brilliantly talented but flawed figures. This time it is the bitter rivalry between Formula One race car drivers James Hunt (“Thor’s” Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (“Inglourious Basterds'” Daniel Brühl).  The British Hunt is Maverick to the Austrian Lauda’s Iceman, the Michael to his Sonny, the id to Lauda’s superego.

Both were the rebellious sons of wealthy fathers.  Hunt is handsome, careless, and catnip to the ladies.  “He will have you pulling your hair out nine days out of ten,” a character says, but on the tenth day, when you need him, he will deliver.  Lauda is methodical and analytical.  He calculates the odds.  But they both know that they are among the very few who know what it feels like to get into a car that is essentially a bomb on wheels and speed it around a racetrack.  They both do it not because they like driving in circles but because they like to test themselves.  They both like to win, even need to win.  And, as they remind us perhaps one or two times too many in this film, they both know that the best way to do that is to compete against one another.  “The only people  I can get along with are those who can drive fast,” Hunt says.  He does not really get along with them, either.

Hemsworth, 30 pounds lighter than his Thor/Avengers muscled-up Norse god look, is able to make Hunt magnetic even in 70’s hair.  We meet him as he walks into an emergency room with a bashed nose, not from a racing accident, from a jealous husband.  The pretty nurse (Natalie Dormer) asks what he did to anger the husband and he rakishly offers to show her.  The curtain rings squeal against the rod as it is quickly swung around and soon he is introducing her to his pit crew as “Nursie.”  No time to learn her name, and no need.

Hunt was the James Bond of race car drivers, sexy, sophisticated, and fearless.  But I don’t think James Bond ever threw up before a confrontation.  “Rebels, lunatics, dreamers,” he tells us about race car drivers. “People who are desperate to make a mark and willing to die for it.”  Formula One averaged two deaths a year.  But, he adds, “The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.”

Lauda says his brain is not that strong but his ass is very smart.  He can tell from a car’s vibrations under the seat that a fan belt will be in trouble and which tire needs air.  He negotiates his driving deals the way he drives, calmly but ruthlessly.   He gets up early to walk the track.  He calculates risk constantly and accurately.  When he explains that one race should be called off because the heavy rainstorm has made conditions unsafe, Hunt, behind on points, persuades the other drivers to vote to continue.  Lauda is very badly injured, including burns on his face and severe lung damage.  In one of the most extraordinary comebacks in the history of sports, Lauda was back on the track 42 days later, against doctor’s orders but able to compete.  In what passed for cheerfulness from the dour Austrian, he told the press that there was one advantage to the skin grafts on his forehead.  They don’t sweat, so he would no longer be bothered by sweat dripping in his eyes.  And, has his wife told him, you drive with your foot, not your face.

Howard conveys the pressure and the thrill of Formula One racing, giving us the view from inside the helmet, and showing us that Hunt’s air of casual mastery is accompanied by a nervous habit of playing with the cap on his cigarette lighter.   He shows us how Hunt and Lauda are always racing, whether it is Hunt visualizing the track or Lauda walking it, competing for the best cars and sponsors, or exchanging barbed comments about whether it is more important to be feared than loved.  The action is electrifying, on and off the track.

Parents should know that this movie includes some disturbing images of crashes and injuries, very strong language, sexual references and situations with nudity, drinking, smoking, and drug use, as well as a great deal of reckless behavior.

Family discussion: What were the most important ways in which Hunt and Lauda were alike?  If you were a sponsor, which would you hire and why?

If you like this, try: “Winning” with Paul Newman, “Grand Prix” with James Garner, and “Le Mans” with Steve McQueen, and Peter Morgan’s “The Damned United” about another real-life sports rivalry.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Drama Sports
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2021, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik