Rush: Behind the Scenes


Chris Hemsworth in Rush

It’s a classic tale: Two adversaries discover that they are much more alike than they’d imagined. Think of Javert and Jean Valjean’s cat-and-mouse hunt, Captain Ahab’s obsessive contest with that whale, or David Frost’s barbed interview with Richard Nixon. The last was a televised spectacle that became the subject of Ron Howard’s 2008 movie Frost/Nixon. The director’s bracing new thriller, Rush, is also built around an all-consuming rivalry. Penned by Frost/Nixon screenwriter Peter Morgan and based on actual events, the film follows Formula 1 drivers James Hunt, a playboy Brit, and Niki Lauda, a dour Austrian, as they battle for the title during the memorable 1976 season. “Initially, it wasn’t the racing that attracted me to the project,” explains Howard, who hadn’t been a fan of the sport until he began working on the film. “It was the rich relationship between these dynamic characters.” The charismatic Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) bedded models—including Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), to whom he was briefly married, before Miller went on to wed Richard Burton—and lived as recklessly as he drove; the brilliant but hermetic Lauda (Daniel Brühl) preferred to spend long nights in the garage. But on the racetrack, the two were so perfectly matched that the fate of that season, after a series of real-life twists so dramatic as to challenge credulity, would come down to the final, death-defying lap. For Howard, the sense of impending danger that draws fans to racing is as viscerally electrifying to stage as it is to witness live—maybe a little too much so. “On the last day of shooting, we had several high-speed spinouts,” he recalls. “I was relieved when we finished.”

Photographs by Jaap Buitendijk