Racing

Jason Rule

Tue Aug 13 2013 01:49:42 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Daniel Bruhl was taken aback when Formula  1 legend Niki Lauda suggested that they meet.

‘Sure, come to Vienna — but please bring only hand luggage because if we don’t like each other you can p*** off,’ Lauda told the actor, who starred in Goodbye Lenin and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

Bruhl did as instructed. ‘I guess we liked each other because I had to buy new clothes,’ he joked when we met for Sunday lunch at a trendy photo studio in Shoreditch, East London

Daniel Bruhl who stars as Niki Lauda in the new film Rush. Baz Bamigboye describes his performance as one of the best this year Bruhl¿s partner on screen is action star Chris Hemsworth, who brings out the seemingly carefree nature of the playboy Hunt.
Excellent: Daniel Bruhl has managed to dig into Niki Lauda's psyche in the new film Rush while Chris Hemsworth, who plays James Hunt, brings out his seemingly carefree attitude

The visit was worth it, though. The Spanish-born German actor’s portrait of Lauda in Ron Howard’s excellent movie Rush, about the titanic battle for Formula 1 supremacy in 1976 between Britain’s James Hunt and the Austrian Lauda, digs deep into the driver’s psyche.

Bruhl’s performance is one of the best I’ve seen on screen this year, and this should be the part that breaks him through to international stardom.

Bruhl’s partner on screen is action star Chris Hemsworth, who brings out the seemingly carefree nature of the playboy Hunt.


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But behind that girl-watching gaze there was an iron will to win on the track.

The competitiveness was intense, and that comes across thanks to superb performances by the leads, Howard’s returned confidence as a director, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s brilliance and Peter Morgan’s superb screenplay.

But the film is about more than just rivalry — it’s also about an unspoken honour between men who fearlessly dice with death, week in and week out.

After spending several days with the racing legend in Vienna and then Brazil (Lauda flew the actor and his girlfriend Felicitas Rombold, a psychologist, in his private jet) Bruhl came to appreciate his ‘no bull***t’ persona.

Intense: The drivers' rivalry is clear to see thanks to superb performances by the leads and Howard¿s returned confidence as a director
Intense: The drivers' rivalry is clear to see thanks to superb performances by the leads and Howard¿s returned confidence as a director


Rush Official Trailer 2013

He also started to understand how he dealt with the horrifying burns he suffered in a death-defying crash in 1976.

After the accident, Lauda’s face was slowly rebuilt, using skin grafts. ‘I used all of his qualities. His fearlessness. His bravery. I’m a fearful man, but I’ve learnt to be stronger since playing him. His humour, too,’ says Bruhl.

The actor explained there’s miles of difference between the national characteristics of Germans and Austrians. ‘Ron Howard, being an American, couldn’t hear it. But the Austrian timbre implies a cockiness and slight arrogance that they have — and a sense of humour.

‘The Austrians are much funnier than the Germans. They have that attitude of: “I don’t care!” It’s not German. We’re always pretty correct.’

On that Brazilian trip, Lauda turned to Felicitas and held her gaze. ‘He said: “Look at my face! I have to live with this and I don’t give a s***.” ’

Bruhl and Hemsworth weren't allowed to drive a real Formula 1 car so instead the used Formula 3 vehicles with fake F1 bodywork instead
Bruhl and Hemsworth weren't allowed to drive a real Formula 1 car so instead the used Formula 3 vehicles with fake F1 bodywork instead

Bruhl said Lauda encouraged her to touch his face. ‘He pointed behind one ear and said: “The doctors took this part of skin and put it around my eyes; and from the butt they took skin and put it here.”

‘I didn’t want to touch his face; my girlfriend didn’t either. But he was cool with it. I played the role of Niki Lauda under the influence of Niki’s personality.’

He also had a few lessons on a Grand Prix track, though he and Hemsworth weren’t allowed to drive a real Formula 1 car. They used Formula 3 vehicles with fake F1 bodywork instead.

On his first day of rehearsals, a wheel flew off on his first lap.

‘For three seconds I froze because I suddenly felt how Lauda must have felt. But obviously it was all OK and I wondered at the back of my mind if it was set up by Ron Howard to test my nerve,’ he joked.

He also enjoyed watching Hemsworth squeeze into one of the cars. ‘It was strange getting into the cars and thinking of the risks those drivers take,’ he said

Real life rivals: Lauda and Hunt are pictured at the 1976 Monaco Grand Prix during a season where they battled for the championship after the Austrian's horrific crash
Real life rivals: Lauda and Hunt are pictured at the 1976 Monaco Grand Prix during a season where they battled for the championship after the Austrian's horrific crash

‘I think Lauda and Hunt did dice with death. Lauda calculated that there was a 20 per cent risk each time he was racing that something fatal would happen — but he wouldn’t accept 21 per cent. He was — and still is — very concerned about safety.’

In the autumn, Bruhl will be seen opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in The Fifth Estate, about WikiLeaks co-founders Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

Bruhl said he heard that Howard let Dreamworks, producers of The Fifth Estate, see an early cut of Rush. ‘I’d heard they wanted an American, so I was surprised when I got it,’ he told me.

Bruhl better get ready, then, because there’s going to be one hell of a rush to work with him after Rush opens here and in the U.S. after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival early next month.

Butter Cup

Tue Aug 13 2013 15:31:34 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Who cares about the racing, this guy is hunkadelic!

Don Hayes

Tue Aug 13 2013 17:12:16 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Great pin about how the actor did his research and learned about Niki Lauda as a person. Looking forward to the film for the acting as much as the racing!