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How Rush recreated the danger of 1970s Formula 1, without the danger

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Rush pulls no punches when it comes to showing the dangers of Formula 1 in the 1970s.

"I accept every time I get in my car, there's a 20% chance I could die," states Daniel Brühl's Niki Lauda during the film. While the factual accuracy of this statement is debatable, there is no doubting that Formula One was a hugely dangerous sport back in the '70s.

But it was also hugely exciting. Rush, which follows the rivalry between the decade's two biggest names, Niki Lauda and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), works hard to capture a sense of the risk and reward that drivers would go through for each race.

Niki Faulkner with the McLaren from Rush

Rush stunt driver Niki Faulkner


Behind all that risk is stunt driver Niki Faulkner. Charged with the task of pushing real and replica classic F1 cars to the ragged edge, Faulkner played a large part in making the movie so exciting.

The process started with a fairly exhaustive study of Hunt and Lauda's driving styles, in order to make sure that things looked as realistic as possible.

"It was intimidating because you're trying to re-enact something that was very famous. Everybody knew about Hunt, how he drove and his mannerisms in the car," explains Faulkner.

"You have Lauda as this analytical and precise driver and then Hunt who is perceived as a bit of a brute and a bit of an animal who will wrestle the car around."

But after some research, it became apparent that Hunt's legend might not have necessarily matched the reality. In fact, his style would change throughout the year.

Rush movie still

© Jaap Buitendijk © Rush Films Limited / Egoli Tossell Film and Action Image

'Rush' Movie Still


"You see him at the start of the season and he's struggling a little bit," says Faulkner. This would gradually change as the season went on, with Hunt's speed and finesse reaching its peak during the final race in the movie at Japan's Fuji raceway.

"We had to add a little bit of Hollywood to make the driving a bit more dramatic for that part of the story.

Rush movie poster
"Then you get to Fuji and he actually drove very well. He drove very smoothly at Fuji. We tried to make it as realistic as possible."

What quickly became apparent to Faulkner, who has driven multiple modern day F1 cars, is just how different things were back in the 1970s.

Many drivers saw serious injury following a crash, with Niki Lauda's own horrific accident forming the crux of the Rush storyline. Stepping into the classic racing cars, it's obvious just how dangerous they were.

"It was quite a liberating experience in some ways. You're getting into a car that has a lot of history behind it. It's difficult not to feel some of the emotions that other drivers were going through in that period of time because you feel, quite quickly, vulnerable," says Faulkner.

"You can hear the fuel pump going on, you are sat on the fuel tank effectively. In fact, in Niki Lauda's Ferrari, you can see the fuel line sat next to you while you're driving. You end up feeling, 'If anything goes wrong this is going to be bad'."

'Rush' still

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt

Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda in 'Rush'

Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda



One of the main difficulties with Rush was producing something that would not only satisfy fans of the sport, but keep things engaging to the average viewer, while staying within the movie's fairly limited budget. As such, director Ron Howard had to be creative with many of the movie's race sequences.

Rather than using multiple real-life tracks, locations that could serve as more than one setting were found. Monza, for example, is actually two corners at Brands Hatch.

"We did a scene at Fuji that we shot at Snetterton in Norfolk," Faulkner reveals. "The CGI guys would put in a set extension, so behind us you could see Mt Fuji and the grandstands and everything... suddenly it looks like Fuji racetrack."

The cars, too, obviously couldn't undergo the same levels of stress they would have in the 1976 Grand Prix season, in part because they are largely priceless.

So valuable are they, in fact, that one race start sequence - which uses around 80% of the real original F1 cars - would have largely bankrupted the movie if any of the drivers stalled and crashed.

For the most part, the movie used replicas built to look as close as possible to their real-life counterparts.

"The guys who prepared the cars had done such a great job to make things as close to the real thing as possible. Even to the point where the guys who run the real McLaren were asked to move the car and nearly moved the replica."

Rush movie still

© Jaap Buitendijk © Rush Films Limited / Egoli Tossell Film and Action Image

'Rush' Movie Still


Using replicas meant that Faulkner could push the cars much harder: "I drove the replica McLaren we had absolutely flat out down a straight and had to force it into a spin, so that they could get the dynamics of the car and the CGI guys could work on it.

"I drove with a camera on a tracking car and I was doing 70 miles an hour, with a camera about 5mm away from my face."

The result of all this is some largely impressive race sequences which, Faulkner hopes, do a good job of offering some fan service while keeping less F1-obsessed viewers entertained.

For those yet to see it, Rush is available to download now and is released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 27, courtesy of StudioCanal.

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