In the new film Rush, Ron Howard’s fuel injected thriller about the duel between British driver James Hunt and his Austrian rival Niki Lauda, we are transported to the World of 70’s Formula 1 car racing.
The film concentrates on a four year period leading up to 1976 – regarded by F1 fans as one of the best seasons ever – when Hunt, in his McLaren, and reigning champion Lauda, driving for Ferrari, were neck and neck for the championship. Chris Hemsworth, the actor that plays James Hunt in the film, was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and got his start in Australian television shows. Now established as one of the best young stars in Hollywood thanks to a string of blockbuster hits including Thor and Snow White and the Huntsman, jumped at the chance to play the British racer. In this interview with Chris, we find out about his current projects, why going fast isn’t always a good thing, and how to ride the line of danger.
What was it like when you first saw the finished film?
It was really exciting because I was completely taken with how well it’s shot, how well the story played, and the way Ron had pulled this together. It’s a fascinating story because there’s the intense rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda and the psychology of that Formula 1 world. These guys lived with the looming threat of death and all, basically, for entertainment.
That element of danger was in every move they made on the track wasn’t it?
Oh absolutely, although since then the sport has got a lot safer. Nothing forces you to be in the moment more than the threat of death and that highly adrenaline charged race. I think that desire to be in the moment like that becomes addictive and we, the fans, want to see people experience that. And certainly with the glamour and gallantry of F1 and the 1970s and the sexiness of it, you couldn’t have a better backdrop for a film.
One of the things that comes across in the film is just how precarious and temperamental those F1 cars were back then…
Yes, the slightest adjustment, whether it’s the width of the tail fin or the type of rubber on the tires or where they positioned the fuel tank, could make a huge difference. Everything came down to tenths of a second. That really made me appreciate the mechanics that work with the F1 teams. There were so many elements that came into play that allowed the drivers to do what they do.
Could you describe what it’s like to drive an F1 car?
I remember the first time I got into one of those cars, there’s the incredible roar of the engine and the whole thing is vibrating. You are locked into this little cocoon and your shoulders are rubbing the sides of the cabin and you feel that this car is an extension of your body. Once you get into that machine you immediately understand the addiction to that world and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. It hits you in the gut.
How much of the driving did you do?
We did about a month of prep learning to drive those cars, which was great fun and there’s quite a tricky clutch/accelerator transition that you have to get used to, they are not like regular cars. And you have really got to muscle the thing. During the film, most of the stuff we did was pulling in and out of the pits and we would fly into the pits at speed, break and pull the visor up, say a couple of lines and then take off again. And then a lot of the time obviously we would have stunt drivers to do the serious business.
So Rush is an appropriate title for the film?
Oh yes, there’s certainly a rush when you drive those cars. We were tossing that around for a while but I think it sums it up perfectly.
How is the family?
They’re wonderful and everyone is great. My wife and daughter are here with me in LA where I’m shooting at the moment with Michael Mann (Cyber) and then we’re off around the world on various locations for that and then I’ll be doing Ron’s next film. The first thing I thought when I finished Rush was ‘when can I get back onto a set with Ron, he’s the best”. I mentioned Heart of the Sea to him, he read it, and loved it and things took off from there.
The movie Rush will be playing at Cinescape starting September 26th. Visit their website at www.cinescape.com.kw or find them on Facebook: Cinescape – Kuwait National Cinema Company.