After Sunday’s (September 8) gala presentation North American premiere at Roy Thompson Hall, Rush star Daniel Brühl and Niki Lauda sat down with Jeremy Kay to talk about the film. Lauda flew in to attend the premiere.
Ron Howard directed Rush from a screenplay by Peter Morgan that explores the rivalry between 1970s Formula 1 icons James Hunt and Lauda. Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media co-financed Rush and produced in association with Imagine Entertainment, Working Title Films, Revolution Films, Egoli Tossell Film and Action Concept Film.
Universal will release in the US on September 27, StudioCanal in the UK on September 13 and eOne in Canada on September 27.
As a child growing up in Germany how aware were you of Niki?
DB: I grew up in Cologne near the Nurburgring where the accident happened [Lauda nearly died after his car crashed during the 1976 world championship], so when I was a kid I already knew who Niki Lauda was. He is a living legend. It freaked me out, the idea of playing him, because we didn’t have much in common and he was such an icon.
I was quite relaxed when I went to the audition because I didn’t thing they would offer it to me. When I got the part it was huge excitement and after that panic because I realised I had to play this guy. I did all sorts of things to get ready like the driver training and learning the accent.
Tell us about learning the Austrian accent
DB: The Austrian accent has an extra layer of irony and cockiness and a dryness. There’s a melody to it and I told Ron [Howard] it was crucial to the part.
What kind of driver training did you receive?
DB: After I got the offer I was on holiday with my girlfriend in Spain and went to Barcelona to visit my brother, who is a huge F1 fan. He organised a F3 course for me. I drove around this and it was a great experience because I realised how different it is in comparison to normal driving: the way you operate the pedals and think and all these technical things. Once we started shooting Chris [Hemsworth] and I did some more [training]. We had precision drivers who explained some of the technical aspects.
Niki, you had great technical knowledge of cars. How did that help your career?
NL: I was the first to realise the better the car the faster we could go. I was the first to work with the mechanics on the engines to set the car up but soon the other drivers caught up.
How did you get along with Chris Hemsworth?
DB: We had a chemistry. We didn’t need to create a fake rivalry between us. It was interesting that despite our differences in culture and career, underneath there was a deep respect and interest in each other. That was the same with Hunt and Lauda – there was that rivalry and respect.
Niki, describe that mutual respect with James
NL: The film is absolutely right because from the beginning I was clearly in the lead of the championship because Ferrari was better and I was better. But he was such a competitor I had to worry after the accident and I felt he was going to get me. We respected each other because we knew week-to-week neither of us would do anything stupid [in terms of driving manoeuvres]. James was very professional.
Did you reach out to Niki during the making of Rush?
DB: We called Niki for advice many times. Sometimes we stood there on set, paralysed by details like would he pull on his gloves first or his helmet. We’d call Niki and he’d tell us how he did it. He said the F1 world approved the movie. They held a screening for professional drivers at Nurburgring.
Did you do much driving in the movie?
DB: We did some of the driving in the movie. The precision drivers and stuntmen were there for the harder stuff including the accident scene.
Niki, what do you remember of the accident?
NL: I have no memory of the accident. I was hit so hard [that I soon went into a coma]. I have only seen the footage that was taken at the time by an eight-year-old boy in the woods by the track with his 8mm camera. They used some of that footage in the movie.
Daniel, did you have any incidents while driving at high speed?
DB: When I first tested my fake Ferrari – they used a F3 chassis with a F1 shell – a wheel came off and I spun. It felt quite uncomfortable and immediately I had the suspicion that Chris and Ron had manipulated the car. [Laughs.] That’s when I realised how tough the sport was. I was a co-pilot with a professional driver on La Mans [and another circuit] and they drove really fast and I though, ‘Shit, this is insane.’ Ron went for a drive with Niki. Ron is a very cautious and slow driver and Niki drove him in a Ferrari on their test circuit.
How did it feel watching Rush?
DB: The first two times I only looked at my performance but [this time] I paid attention to different things like the sound and the 70s look. It was impressive what [cinematographer] Anthony Dod Mantle did. He used 70s lenses and sometimes he would have 30 cameras set up and you didn’t know where the cameras were and that’s how he created these thrilling scenes in the race with the camera on the face, the feet operating the pedals or the outside of the car. As a spectator you feel you’re at the race.
Niki, how good was Ron at recreating the races?
NL: Ron shot the racing scenes very well, especially the Nurbergring.
What was the 2012 shoot in the UK and Germany like?
DB: The budget was not huge so Ron had to use his ingenuity. Sometimes we would have to shoot two or three races on the same circuit [Silverstone in the UK], so we were jumping back and forth shooting the Japanese track in the rain, then all the Japanese extras would clear out and it would become the Brazilian race. That energy made the movie so good because everybody was working 100pc.
What is Ron like as a director?
DB: Ron is a genius. As an actor you cannot ask for more. He is extremely humble. I love the way he speaks to people. He is the boss without being bossy and he knows how to communicate with you and gives you the right amount of support. He encourages you to work harder.