Ecclestone black-flagged F1 film project

By Geoffrey Macnab

David Cronenberg has revealed that he came tantalisingly close to making a big-budget film about motor racing but that the project crashed because of the demands of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

The Canadian director and die-hard race fan said that in 1986 he was recruited by the then-Paramount Pictures boss, Ned Tanen, to develop a Formula One movie.

"I had meetings with Bernie to talk to him about how we might structure a Formula One movie that was modern at the time and could we, for example, invent a team and have a pit for our team," said Cronenberg.

Ecclestone was initially responsive to the proposals.

"All of these things he was talking about as being possible," the director said. "Of course, ultimately it would have come down to money."

During his research he spoke to several drivers, including the late Ayrton Senna, the legendary Brazilian world champion.

"I asked him [Senna] about dreaming," Cronenberg said.

The Brazilian replied that he "dreamed the racetrack. It's almost like I am practising the racetrack in my dreams." Asked the same question, another champion, Keke Rosberg, replied abruptly: "No. Why would I dream about the racetrack? I spend too much time of my waking life on the racetracks."

Cronenberg, director of Naked Lunch, Crash and the recent Freud/Jung biopic A Dangerous Method, has raced vintage cars (including Formula One models from the 1950s).

His research did not entirely go to waste. He later completed a screenplay, Red Cars, about the American driver Phil Hill winning the Formula One world championship for Ferrari in 1961. The film has never been made, but Cronenberg published a limited-edition "art book" version of the screenplay in 2005.

The revelation came as Ron Howard started shooting his own motor-racing film, Rush. It will tell the story of flamboyant British playboy James Hunt and his arch-rival Niki Lauda in the 1970s.

The box-office success of Asif Kapadia's feature documentary Senna has shown there is an audience for motor racing on the big screen.

The fact that the Howard film is under way suggests it must have Ecclestone's blessing.


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