SBJ/July 15-21, 2013/In Depth

Ron Howard’s latest movie project recalls a classic F1 rivalry

Unlike “Draft Day” director Ivan Reitman, Ron Howard did not seek a partnership with Formula One for his film “Rush,” which depicts the rivalry of F1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt in the mid-1970s. In an email exchange with reporter Christopher Botta, Howard shared some thoughts on sports movies and the making of “Rush,” which is scheduled for release in September.

Director Ron Howard (left) visits Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone and actor Michael Douglas prior to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix in May.
Photo by: Getty Images
What was your relationship with F1 and CEO/President Bernie Ecclestone while you were making “Rush”?

HOWARD: There was no formal cooperation required or requested, but Bernie gave [screenwriter] Peter Morgan and I an interview two years ago at Silverstone. Since then, Bernie has been very welcoming when Peter or I show up at a race. Bernie even invited me onto the grid a couple of times, which was beyond courteous. I’ve certainly come to respect immensely what he and his team have done to corral and create the amazing apparatus that is modern F1, but we’ve had no business dealings with Bernie or F1.

What is it that you like best about F1 and hoped to capture in your film?

HOWARD: I love the showmanship and excitement around the sport. I really hope the expansion into the U.S. continues. The race in Austin was great, and the hope for a New Jersey race is still alive, I’m told. That would be an event not to be missed. My fingers are crossed.

F1 is not as popular in the U.S. as it is in many other parts of the world. Did that make “Rush” a difficult movie to get green-lighted?
HOWARD: Because it was such a strong screenplay and the sport is so important in many regions of the world, the movie came together quickly. There was also a freshness about the project and it offered a lot of creative opportunities to the people involved, so everyone treated it as a labor of love. The budget [an estimated $38 million] was as lean and responsible as it could be while still delivering on the promise of the movie and the world we were re-creating.

This is your second sports film, after “Cinderella Man” in 2005. What do you believe makes an artistically successful sports movie?
HOWARD: To demonstrate something compelling and revealing about the human experience, you also have to have a respect for the sport and an application of the dynamics of the competition.

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