Acclaimed film director Ron Howard has talked openly about his next film project, telling the story of the 1976 World Championship battle between Niki Lauda and James Hunt.
Many film-going fans will know Howard from his lengthy TV role on the sitcom Happy Days, but many more will know of his work as a film director, with the American having directed the blockbusters Apollo 13, Backdraft, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code.
Howard’s latest film project – believed to have the working title Rush – will be the first Formula 1 feature film since John Frankenheimer’s epic 1966 film Grand Prix, and it will see him collaborate with Frost/Nixon screenwriter Peter Morgan to take on the events of the 1976 Formula 1 season.
“The script is very much about the relationship that year between Ferrari driver Niki Lauda and McLaren racer James Hunt,” Howard told The National in an interview.
“It’s a great story, it’s a remarkable story and, as all F1 fans know, it nearly ended tragically when Niki Lauda crashed. Amazingly, he survived but he was clearly in a bad way, but even more amazingly he missed just two races and returned for the Grand Prix in Italy.”
Fans know that Hunt would go on to snatch the title in a remarkable come-from-behind charge for the championship crown, with the Briton beating the Austrian by a single point when Lauda withdrew from the soaking Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji.
The story is the stuff of a blockbuster, although Howard has already confessed that he will shoot on a more modest budget in comparison to some of his other previous films.
“It’s a European film and so the budget’s going to be set accordingly," he said. "But I think it will still work with American audiences. Even though NASCAR is king in the States, a lot of people love F1 and even more people like a good story and this is just that,” he added.
With SENNA paving the way across the world as the first motorsport feature film – albeit in documentary form – in close to ten years since Talladega Nights, the really big question will be how modern-day film-making copes with adapting this story to the big screen.
Fans will be quick to criticise any deviation from the actual 1976 season, and Howard certainly will need to be faithful to the actual events from the year.
Whether this turns out to be a Grand Prix or a Driven (Sylvester Stallone’s appalling piece set in the CART series) will very much hinge on this point.