From track to screen: Director Neill Blomkamp talks about making “Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story”

“Gran Turismo has all the qualities of a great underdog sports story,” says producer Doug Belgrad of the film based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, one of the unlikeliest racecar drivers of all time. 

Director Neill Blomkamp, whose credits include District 9 and Elysium, says that Jann makes a compelling character because his real-life story is an unbelievable series of dreams coming true. Like a lot of young adults, Jann seems more interested in playing videogames than with making something of his life, until he’s given a chance to play for real. “Jann is playing ‘Gran Turismo’ in his parents’ house when all of a sudden – after years – he sees the option for GT Academy,” Blomkamp explains. “Only then did he learn how to drive proper cars – how to hit an apex and exit a corner – everything he’d done intuitively inside the game, but had never been taught.”

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Blomkamp’s way into the film was through a longtime love of cars—the merging of mechanics, engineering, art, and design—and that meant the exciting possibility of showing what these cars can do. “With a movie like this one, sometimes the temptation is to go all-digital. Shoot some background plates, do digital cars, drop your actors in from a virtual production environment. But in this case, everything is real, and I mean literally everything is real. When we portray an actor driving the car, they are actually going around the track pretty close to the speed that they should be going.”

Part of doing it for real was getting the real cars and shooting on the real tracks, including the Slovakia Ring in Slovakia, the Dubai Autodrome, the Nurburgring, the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and the Hungaroring; this latter track doubles for both the GT Academy (loosely based on Silverstone, the home of UK auto racing) and Le Mans. 

And in the driver’s seat, Blomkamp had one other secret weapon in showing what it was like for Jann Mardenborough behind the wheel – and that was Jann Mardenborough himself, who served as the film’s stunt driver for the character of Jann. “The story is based on him, Archie Madekwe portrays him, and he’s the stunt driver who drives Archie’s car as the character based on him,” says Blomkamp. “It’s amazing – some very interesting meta thing happening there.”

“It’s so surreal,” says Mardenborough. “The last time I was in Hungary, the track was packed with trucks for a race. This time, it was packed with trucks for a film being made about me. That blew my mind.”

Watch the inspiring true story of videogamer-turned-racecar driver Jann Mardenborough in Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story, opening in Philippine cinemas in August. 

About Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story

Based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, the film is the ultimate wish fulfillment tale of a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills won a series of Nissan competitions to become an actual professional racecar driver.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, screenplay by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, based on the PLAYSTATION STUDIOS video game.

Produced by Doug Belgrad, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan, Dana Brunetti. The executive producers are Kazunori Yamauchi, Herman Hulst, Jason Hall, Matthew Hirsch.

The cast is led by David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe, Darren Barnet, Geri Halliwell Horner and Djimon Hounsou.

In Philippine cinemas August 2023, Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.  Connect with the hashtag #GranTurismoMovie

Photo & Video Credit: “Columbia Pictures”

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