If you are yearning for next year’s Grand Prix season, be of good cheer. Formula 1 nostalgia is showing now at your local cinema. And for those of us who are not petrol heads but just love a great story – Rush is the real deal.
“Hollywood loves cut-and-dried stories like the bitter battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda for the memorable 1976 Formula 1 world championship: two men, with diametrically opposed temperaments, each literally defying death to gain supremacy over his rival.’ telegraph.co.uk
The movie is set during that immensely dangerous period in Formula 1’s history, when technology rapidly outpaced safety advancements.
Paying the Price
"The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel," Hunt says. But it is Lauda, the more sensible and safety conscious, who pays the price in an appalling accident that leaves him close to death after inhaling hot toxic gases and suffering severe burns. He remains badly disfigured to this day. There is balance, however, to a rivalry that leaves one driver nearly dead in that Lauda’s recovery is again, driven by the need to beat Hunt.
The ferocious 1976 championship fight resumes a mere 42 days after Lauda’s near-fatal crash. "Watching you win those races while I was fighting for my life, you were equally responsible for getting me back in the car," Lauda tells Hunt. These men may be enemies, but they need each other, and it takes a series of bone-chattering 170 m.p.h races for them to finally understand why.
Despite an agreed desire to win, these are two very different heroes. The blond, glamorous English playboy Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) was renowned as much for his off-track antics as on-track brilliance. When Hunt lost his supermodel wife to British actor Richard Burton, Hunt told Burton, “relax, Richard. You’ve done me a wonderful turn by taking on the most alarming expense account in the country.”
On-track, Hunt is pitted against dour Austrian Lauda, played with remarkable sincerity by German actor Daniel Brűhl. Lauda seems methodical, industrious, a cerebral assessor of risk, with no time or patience for anything but victory.
Rush is directed by inimitable storyteller Ron Howard, known for his factual but empathetic movies like Apollo 13. The movie boasts a hugely talented creative team, including writer Peter Morgan, best known for The Queen. Morgan manages consistently to capture modern history through imagined fly-on-the-wall conversations. Conversations that give us access all areas.
Traditionally racing movies have been associated with movie actors like Tom Cruise, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen who love speed and have managed to combine their bankability with a less-than inspiring story about a race track. People who race for a living will tell you that these movies did not sweat too much about accuracy.
Ron Howard was determined that Rush would be different, employing the detail-focused talents of cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, responsible for work on the visual treat that is Slumdog Millionaire amongst notable others. Dod Mantle deployed a huge number of cameras to capture the race scenes, many of them mounted on cars and inside drivers’ helmets. The result is all the perilous immediacy of ultra high-speed racing, realism that filming from a safe distance could never replicate.
Sadly, James Hunt died of a heart attack on June 15, 1993. By this time he had become a highly respected and articulate Formula 1 commentator and something of a reformed character. Among those shocked by his sudden passing was his old friend and rival Niki Lauda, who said,
"For me, James was the most charismatic personality who's ever been in Formula 1. I had a lot of respect for him on the circuit. You could drive two centimetres from his wheels and he never made a stupid move. He was a very solid driver.”
Hunt’s legacy endures. Formula 1 driver and 2007 world champion Kimi Räikkönen entered and won a snowmobile race in his native Finland under the name James Hunt. And he often checks into hotels and makes reservations using the alias.