Ferrari, which tells the story of Enzo Ferrari and the formative days of his eponymous car company, won’t play down the carnage of racing at that time.
The movie, which stars Adam Driver as Ferrari, focuses on three months in 1957 that were pivotal in the man’s career and personal life, director Michael Mann said in a recent interview with Variety. Ferrari had just lost his son Dino to illness, and his wife Laure (played by Penélope Cruz) would soon find out about his affair with Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley).
Ferrari’s company was also failing, and in the movie at least, the only way to save it was for the factory race team to finish well at the 1957 Mille Miglia. Named for its 1,000-mile distance, the race was run on public roads before modern safety considerations. In 1957, Ferrari driver Alfonso de Portago crashed in the Italian village of Guidizzolo, killing himself and 10 spectators, including five children. After 1957, the race was switched to a rally-style format, with cars only driving at high speeds on closed stages.
Before filming, Mann had cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and his camera crew study footage of the 1955 fatal crash at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes-Benz was launched into the grandstands, killing Levegh and what is estimated to be more than 80 spectators in the deadliest racing incident in history. Mann then made a trip to Guidizzolo, interviewing a witness to the 1957 crash.
The inspiration for Ferrari was something a little more pleasant. In the interview, Mann said he was inspired to make a movie about Enzo Ferrari when he saw a 275 GTB rolling down a London street while a film student in 1967.
Mann started work on the movie in 1993, after reading a script based on the late Car and Driver editor Brock Yates’ biography of Enzo. The movie remained in production hell for decades, getting close to approval in 2014, with Christian Bale set to play Ferrari. Bale then dropped out (he would go on to play Ken Miles in 2019’s Ford v. Ferrari) and in 2020 Hugh Jackman entered to talks to play Ferrari. Now the movie is finally on the verge of reaching screens.