Niki Lauda, the iconic Austrian Formula One driver who’s rivalry with British playboy racer James Hunt is depicted in Ron Howard’s new drama Rush, wishes Hunt was alive to see the film, because “he would have enjoyed it”.
Their rivalry is one of the most famous ones in car racing, and in sports in general and Ron Howard was charged with bringing the story to life.
In an interview with John Hiscock from the Telegraph, Lauda says that he has been approached countless times in the past by people wanting to tell his story.
So why did he agree to allow Ron Howard to make Rush, based on his and Hunt’s story?
In two words, Peter Morgan. The screenwriter for hits such as The Queen and Frost/Nixon contacted Lauda with his idea to portray the 1976 season which almost ended up costing Lauda his life.
Niki Lauda suffered a horrific crash which left him disfigured for life.
“Oscar nominations, good writer, top man,” he told Hiscock at the Toronto Film Festival. “I started talking to him and he developed the story about the 1976 racing season and the rivalry between me and James Hunt.”
Rush premiered at the Festival to rave reviews and talk of possible Oscar nominations.
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, portrays living-in-the-fast-lane James Hunt, who in real life died of a heart attack at 45 and Spanish/German actor Daniel Brühl plays the methodical genius that was Niki Lauda.
Lauda was the defending Formula One champion in 1976 when he was critically burned after his Ferrari crashed at Nürburgring. He returned to racing six weeks after the near fatal crash.
Niki Lauda says that he didn’t know who Daniel Brühl was and had to ask his wife. The racing great shares that after meeting Brühl, he liked him from the start and spent a lot of time talking to him and invited him to come along to the Brazilian Grand Prix, since Brühl didn’t know much about the sport, according to Lauda.
Lauda paid Brühl the best compliment he could have received saying,
“I think he did an incredible job because when I first saw the movie, I said, ‘S***! That’s really me.'”
Even though the film depicts their relationship as contentious, Lauda said that him and James Hunt respected each other. He shares that they actually went out on the town in London and on more than one occasion Niki Lauda spent the night at Hunt’s flat.
“But not together. There were four of us.” he jokes.
Niki Lauda said that he trusted Hunt implicitly, because of his precise style and sure hands, and when, in those days they drove at 300-kilometers per hour side by side, he was the man he wanted there.
“We respected each other very much because in the old days, to drive 300 kilometers an hour side by side towards a corner, if someone makes a mistake, one or both are killed. Hunt was someone you could rely on to be really precise.”
Niki Lauda regrets that James Hunt isn’t with us any longer because he knows he would have really enjoyed watching Rush.