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‘Ford v Ferrari’ Director James Mangold On “Stalking” Race Car Epic & The Uphill Climb Of Making A Movie “For Grown-Up People”

Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari

There’s a very good chance that an original movie, 20th Century’s Ford v Ferrari, is poised to best a rival studio franchise reboot, Sony’s Charlie’s Angels at the box office this weekend, $20M-$30M+ to $10M-$12M. That’s great for these types of adult titles in a year when most major studios have flooded the marketplace with so much branded IP, it’s even damaged some storied franchises, read last summer’s Men in Black: International and this month’s Terminator: Dark Fate, which are registering low-grosses for their respective series.

The buzz out there is that Ford v Ferrari, in the wake of its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, is hitting a zeitgeist, extending its fever to not just the tried-and-true older male filmgoers, but gearheads and potentially those who normally don’t frequent the movies. The pic tells the story of how Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) went to toe-to-toe with Ferrari at the legendary Le Mans raceway in 1966 after failing to buy the high-end Italian car maker. Ford taps indie sports car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to build the ideal car that will run over Ferrari. Shelby in turns champions his British rebel car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to drive that vehicle, much to the annoyance of the Ford suits who see the guy as being unhinged.

James Mangold
Deadline

At an Awardsline screening for Ford v Ferrari, director James Mangold detailed his uphill battle to direct the movie.

“It was a movie that I was stalking that existed in other forms with other packages of talent attached to it, not exactly this script, but this period and story. I kept having it explained to me that it either wasn’t available or wasn’t for me. It started in 2010. After every movie, I would check in at Fox, if it sprung available. After every movie it would seem a new group that were not me were involved. After Logan, whether it was the success of Logan or just good luck; after that movie I asked again, and it was suddenly possible,” said Mangold who appeared on stage at the Landmark on Pico Blvd in LA with the pic’s editor Andrew Buckland, re-recording mixer Paul Massey and co-composer Buck Sanders.

“The reason why the movie hadn’t happened was cost. I’m sure you’re well aware, it’s hard to get a movie — an adult-oriented movie with adult themes in it…it’s hard to get these movies made now. We exist in segregated world of movies which are under $30M for adults, and the rest for 13 year olds or streaming,” added the filmmaker, “Making a theatrical picture for grown-up people is an an uphill climb.”

Screenwriter William Goldman famously wrote that when it comes to the success of making a movie in Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.” But Mangold has another rule of thumb from the scribe which relates to his mounting adult pics like Ford v Ferrari.  Every studio plans on the finances of a movie based on you making a shitty movie, the assumption you’ll make a bad movie. They’re computing whether they’ll make money if your movie sucks…It makes sense – they don’t want to gamble on your doing great when the odds are like 20% that maybe the movie comes out excellent,” says Mangold.

“They have to think what happens if this movie isn’t good, ‘Can we cash out on this thing?’ A movie like this is hard to come up with a computation where you’re going to make money if it isn’t good. Because people over 30 don’t leave their home unless they hear it’s good.”

Don’t worry, James Mangold, because according to critics, Ford v. Ferrari is more than good with a certified 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

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