Meet one of the two stars of Ron Howard’s film.
In 2013, First had met Daniel Brühl, who plays F1 driver Niki Lauda in Rush, by Ron Howard. We are reposting this interview on the occasion of the replay of the film tonight on NRJ12.
Rush? “It’s less of a sports movie than behind the scenes of a rock ‘n’ roll story”, warns Ron Howard
Daniel, before Rush, were you a fan of F1? I was mostly a fan of Senna. A very big fan of this runner… and as a German I was a big supporter of Schumacher. We took out the flags as soon as he arrived on a circuit … But it’s funny because, before doing Rush, I discovered the doc on Senna and it rekindled my fascination for this sport and especially for these extraordinary men …
Have you met Lauda? We first spoke on the phone. It was very brief and very… frank. He wanted to meet me, but in case the current didn’t flow, he immediately clarified: “Ach! Bring just a little trash in case you have to leave faster than you planned, ja? “. It had the merit of being clear: if he didn’t like me, he would have sent me home straight away. But we immediately got on very well. I had worked upstream, read his bio, researched his career a bit, and I think he was impressed with the knowledge I had amassed. We spent three days in Vienna and at the end he asked me: “You want to go to Brazil. In my afion? “ And he took me to go see a race there. It was great, I got to talk to him, see him on a track and meet Stewart, Pickie …
Rush: Ron Howard lets go of the cars (review)
Did you feel the pressure to play a guy who is still alive? Obviously! Usually, when you play a real character, he died… There, it was a little scary. Especially Lauda who is intimidating. But it was an incomparable source to know everything. He has a very precise memory of people, events, facts, and I absorbed everything he could give me.
Has he seen the movie? Ah ah ah… Last Saturday, I received a call, in the morning, very early. It woke me up and I thought it was the production. I pick up and I hear: “Hej it’s Niki! “… You imagine the nightmare. In fact, it was to tell me that he had seen scenes from Rush, that he had adored and that he liked my interpretation.
But did the fact that he spoke to you, that he was so close, allow you to be free in your interpretation? Yes. I used him, his memories, but there are things I was making up. From the start it was clear to Ron and Peter (Morgan, the screenwriter) : Rush wouldn’t be a doc. We focused on the conflict between Niki and James Hunt, we invented certain details, dramatized certain situations… This is precisely where we see Peter’s contribution. He has an incredible talent for mixing fiction and reality! We see that he knows Niki. It even feels in the way he makes the character speak and even more in the way he draws the relationship between James Hunt and Lauda precisely.
Chris Hemsworth: “James Hunt embodies the freedom of the 70’s”
This is the central part of the film. How would you define it? On the slopes, they are enemies. But it’s a rivalry that galvanizes them, pushes them to surpass themselves and makes them better. Out of the paddocks, they vowed a mutual friendship and a certain admiration. Niki saw James surrounded by sublime girls while he was alone. And Hunt envied his precision, his methodical, almost scientific mind, his hardworking side too. Each took the other where he could never have gone alone to reach the podium …
There is also this moment of the accident and especially the scene where he puts his helmet back on. Niki at the time had said “That he was not beyond death, but that he was dead”. Was it this rivalry that helped him get back to racing? That is impossible to say… But in the film, it is the pivotal moment of my character. This sequence is crucial. Because he overcomes his fear. He triumphs over his anguish. I discussed it a bit with him and what he says is quite fascinating. Fear is a subject that interests me particularly. It’s a phenomenon that fascinates me, serious. And Lauda explained to me that after the accident, in Monza or Fuji, when he was testing the car, he would sometimes have panic attacks. He would lie down, take an hour to concentrate before leaving. And he finished 4th in Fuji. For me, it’s incomprehensible …
Did he really tell you about his accident? No, because he has no memory of it. But sometimes he has flashes where he sees other people die in an accident like his. He also dreams of this guy who dies beheaded in a car accident. But he never remembers his. As if he had erased it.
Did you try to do a little F1, despite all this? We did a bit of Formula 3, karting… it was fun. We tested the replicas of the F1 cars of the time. Fast, but not as fast as the originals. Enough, however, to give me an idea of the sensations the pilots were feeling at the time. And above all enough to tell the press that we know what we’re talking about …
Something that has nothing to do with… You have very long hair and I think this is the first time that this has happened to you in a movie. Ah after the mechanics, let’s talk about fashion. In Goodbye lenin I had extensions too… But the 70’s make it cool. Looks, girls, cars, it’s beautiful to watch, isn’t it? But to be honest, it was a wig. Underneath I had short hair and it was a lot less sexy.
What a lie, in fact. Here is.
But up to what point Rush is fictitious? It’s impossible to say. It’s a very realistic film. For example at the start of filming, Ron told me that I should not focus on the accent. However, in my opinion, it was essential. I’m German, and the Viennese accent completely changes the character’s attitude. Like her teeth, the other thing that defined Lauda for me. And in the plot, Morgan remained very realistic. He managed to turn an F1 season into a real human drama. I love what he did in The Queen, in Frost / Nixon and in The Last King of Scotland. I love the way he creates moments of fiction that blend in perfectly with the reality of what he’s telling. It’s really amazing …
It’s funny because in the end, Howard could have done a doc on this rivalry. It almost exists elsewhere, because Senna which tells the Senna / Prost rivalry basically works on the same springs, and the Hunt / Lauda relationship is not that different … It’s true, in a way it’s the same. The story of a very strong rivalry. In all sports, there is a competitive spirit, but it is particularly prevalent in F1. It takes discipline, self control, understanding the political issues. And Niki knew how to do that perfectly, he was a businessman, but besides, technically, he was a genius. That said, Peter’s script emphasizes the human dimension of these characters, and it captures the scent of an era, of a revolution, and I’m not sure a doc would have achieved that.
Earlier, you were talking about your obsession with fear. What does it mean ? Maybe because I am a little fearful myself in a lot of situations, it is a feeling that fascinates me. And inevitably, when I think of Niki, I see how well he knew how to brave her. There is that moment in the film where my character explains that he has a 20% chance of dying on each race… I could never have done that. It is a very strange job for people who are afraid of dying.
Interview Gaël Golhen