Go Like Hell, Another Failure In The Wings

It sounds like a movie with hit written all over it. Michael Mann, he of Miami Vice/The Insider/Heat/Crime Story/Manhunter etc., will be directing a film about the ferocious rivalry between Ford and Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans race for 20th Century Fox (the studio behind Star Wars, Indiana Jones et al). The script will be based on the book written by AJ Baimes (who I know nothing about, and the only mention of him on the interwebs are connected to this movie) and Variety says that Brad Pitt has been mentioned as a possible lead.

The film we be titled “Go Like Hell” and it will, most likely, pale in comparison to the real thing, like racing movies always do.

See, I like movies, I really do. And God knows I like racing, so you think this would be a total winner for me. Going off of that, you’d also think that any movies about racing would work for me, but they don’t.

Movies about racing, like movies about fake rock and roll personalities, have one huge flaw in them: They are fiction. And in the case of real racing (and real life rock and roll for that matter), fiction flat out pales in comparison to real life.

Think about it. What happens in a racing movie? Let’s take “Days Of Thunder” as a sad, yet true to form example of the genre. It breaks down like this: A young up and coming racer, Cole Trickle (played by a block of wood shaped like Tom Cruise) has his sights set of fame and glory and victory on the NASCAR circuit. He comes from our of nowhere, upsets the established good ol’boys, shows definite talent, nearly dies in a spectacular crash, woos a neurosurgeon (played, unbelievably, by Nicole Kidman), overcomes, in order, the derision of the good ol’boys, the devastating trauma of his physics-defying crash, the reticence of Mz. Kidman to have sex with a Scientologist, and COMES FROM BEHIND TO WIN THE BIG RACE!!!!!

What a surprise …

See, that’s the problem with all racing movies (and rock movies). You know the protagonist is going to win, against all odd, just like you know the plucky up and coming singer/songwriter is going to be a big hit. Yeah, I know, Steve McQueen came in second in Le Mans (which is a pretty good film, all in all), but he took one for the team to get a victory.

That’s why real life, and real life racing is so much more interesting than any work of fiction: You never know the outcome.

Think of it. How many times have you watched a race, a given driver way in the lead, and something happens on the last lap (or late in the race) and he goes down to defeat? I can’t even count the times, at this point in my life – although when Nigel Mansell konked out two corners from the end of the Canadian GP because he was too busy waving to the crowd to not stall the car springs to mind as a particularly funny example.

So that is the background milieu that Michael Mann steps into with his (rumored everywhere) upcoming Le Mans movie. Now, Mann definitely does have the chops, there’s no denying that. “Heat” was a very well done movie. Hell he was able to keep Al Pacino in check for 80% of that flick, which is no small achievement. But he’s walking into a subject that is not fiction, not that far in the past and not lacking for documentation.

What will this film tell us that hasn’t already been covered? There are literally tons of books and magazine articles about Ford’s decision to take on Ferrari at Le Mans (and I already own most of them) and on top of that, we know the outcome: Ford won. Oh, I’m sorry, I should have given you a spoiler alert, shouldn’t I?

Sure, sure, you might be able to throw in some back at the factory drama. I, for one, would have loved to seen the look on Henry Ford II’s face when Enzo told him to get packing, the merger is off. Now that I think about it, if Mann were in fact to cover this, just think about all the shades of purple modern computer graphics could turn an actors face.

And speaking of actors, Brad Pitt? Seriously? Who the hell would he play? Look, the guys got talent and not just looks. He was spot on perfect as Tyler Durden and can have great comedic timing … but I don’t recall anyone that pretty racing cars back then. Of the major players, drivers, engineers, team owners, none of them look even close to Pitt … seriously, who? Lee Iacocca?

Of course, by predilection and grousing aside, if this gets out of the gate and gets made, it will probably be a hit (especially if the Pitt rumors turn out to be true). Hell, “Days Of Thunder” was a hit and people within NASCAR still refer to it in positive terms.

I guess there can be a positive upside to all this. If it gets made, and people go see it, it will get them interested in racing. Which means that, after it all boils down, some people might get a better understanding of cars and driving and things might get better out there for us gearheads.

Source: Empire On Line Photo from Flicker user cosmic_spanner

About The Author

Tony Borroz grew up in a sportscar oriented family, but sadly, it was British cars. His knuckles still show the marks of slipped Whitworth sockets, strains to reach upper rear shock bushings on Triumphs, and slight burn marks from dealing with Lucas Electric "systems." He has written for a variety of car magazines and websites, Automoblog chief among them. Tony has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, in addition to working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a movie stuntman. He currently lives in a secure, undisclosed location in the American southwestern desert.

4 Comments on "Go Like Hell, Another Failure In The Wings"

  1. Michelle

    First of all, it would be kind if you would research enough about the author of the book to get his name right. Secondly, AJ Baime was the Senior Editor of Maxim, and now for last 7 years he's the executive editor of Playboy. He's written for numerous other magazines and newspapers and is often seen with full page articles in the Wall Street Journal these days. If you google him, he's even been interviewed by Jay Leno for his book which has been touted among car enthusiasts as the best book describing this particular story of Carroll Shelby and LeMans history.
    Lastly, …not sure what Failure in the Wings is all about. We are involved the process and it's the first I've heard of it!
    The question is…..who are you?

  2. I am a true petrol head but I do agree there have been a few ca racing movies that have flopped. "Driven" with Sylvester Stallone for example. But then there has been a few successful too, like "Days of Thunder".

    Lets give this one a chance and see how it turns out before we give any judgment. :)

  3. Fred

    Problem is car guys like LeMans and hate Days of Thunder while movie goers hate LeMans and like Days of Thunder. Best we can hope for is Grand Prix and we all don't want Driven. Probably end up with the Big Wheel

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