Former Formula One racing champion Niki Lauda’s near fatal crash on the Nürburgring in August 1976 is at the heart of two rival film projects.
In Vienna last week, UK screenwriter Peter Morgan of The Queen and Frost/Nixon fame, who is currently living in the Austrian capital, revealed at the press conference for the Vienna shoot of Fernando Meireilles’ 360 that he had just completed a draft screenplay on the championship season in 1976 when Lauda had the British driver James Hunt as his main rival for the Formula One trophy .
Lauda subsequently confirmed to the Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard that he had met with Morgan “two or three times” and “legal things” now had to be sorted out. “When all that is done, it is my task to give Peter the information about what happened at that time,” the 62-year-old former racing driver said.
According to Austrian press reports, no producer or director is as yet attached to Morgan’s screenplay.
However, at the same time, Berlin-based producer Harald Reichebner of European Enterprises and Hannes Schalle of Salzburg’s Moonlake Entertainment have announced plans for a summer 2011 shoot for their own international co-production 33 Days (To Hell And Back) about the same episode in Lauda’s life.
The producers have brought the US director Joe Coppoletta onboard, who has already begun scouting locations in Germany, Hungary, Austria and Italy as well as making casting proposals for the English language project.
Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily, producers Reichebner and Schalle revealed that they began the research and development of the project in early 2008, resulting in a treatment as well as a teaser edited from the original 1976 footage.
“After an extended personnel meeting with Mr. Lauda in Vienna, a written arrangement has been signed whereby he assured his full support for the project, which he recently confirmed,” Schalle said..
The script for 33 Days (To Hell and Back) has been written by a team of writers including Manja Schaar, Alex Rofaila, Schalle and Günther Mitterhuber, and was partly inspired by Schalle’s 2010 TV documentary Against All Odds (Aus eigener Kraft) which had told Lauda’s 1976 story as part of a feature about sporting legends making comebacks after serious accidents.
In an ironic twist, Peter Morgan’s mother-in-law Dr. Therese von Schwarzenberg also appeared in Schalle’s film speaking about she managed to leave the confines of her wheelchair after a skiing accident and walk again after two years.
According to Schalle and Reichebner, the film’s Euros 7m budget “will be financed by various sources: equity, tax credits and pre-sales - which we will finalise this year in Cannes.”
The two producers added that they and Coppoletta are looking to sign Germany’s Daniel Brühl and Yvonne Catterfeld to appear in the film opposite Harry Potter star Tom Felton in the part of James Hunt.
Meanwhile, I Am Number Four star Alex Pettyfer is reportedly set to play James Hunt in a biopic on the racing legend currently being developed at Dreamworks, based on Tom Rubython’s book Shunt : The Story Of James Hunt.