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It's one of the most legendary tales in the history of motorsports. Carroll Shelby, working closely with his spirited test driver Ken Miles, develops a revolutionary car that bests a fleet of vehicles built by Italian racing legend Enzo Ferrari at the 1966 running of the 24 Hours of LeMans. This is the story of a group of unconventional thinkers who overcome incredible odds to achieve something extraordinary through sheer inventiveness, determination and force of will.

Director James Mangold was excited by the dual challenges the project offered: the opportunity to stage thrilling racing sequences that would essentially put the audience inside the cars with these fearless drivers, and the chance to chronicle the turbulent friendship between Shelby and Miles. Both had quite distinct, larger-than-life personalities-Shelby, tough yet eminently likable; Miles, prickly and unfiltered-but they were united by a passion for innovation and an abiding love for racing.

Quite simply, Shelby and Miles were driven to excel, even if it meant putting their lives on the line every time they got behind the wheel. "They understood each other at the most profound level," says Mangold. "When Shelby's confronted with the fact that he can't race anymore, he reinvents himself from a driver into a car salesman and designer, and Ken becomes a vessel for Shelby's dreams. But Ken can't quite filter himself or control himself in corporate situations or publicity situations. He just says whatever he thinks, so Shelby takes on this role of protector or spokesman for Ken. They have a very symbiotic relationship. One fills in where the other leaves off."

"FORD v FERRARI is the kind of movie that reminds me why I got into the movie business in the first place," say producer Peter Chernin about what drew him to the project. "It's a big, emotional, distinctive theatrical experience that embraces all of the reasons we want to sit in a movie theater. We want to be invested. We want to be moved, to cry to laugh... to be inspired. This movie is all of that and more."

Chernin was excited that director James Mangold was enlisted after several years of developing the script. Mangold was already experienced in telling emotionally satisfying stories about historical figures and dramatic tales about outsiders.

"He is always drawn to reluctant heroes, people who live by a strong moral code all their own, often idiosyncratic, sometimes less than law-abiding," says Chernin. "The draw for him to make a gorgeous, huge-scope drama with high-stakes action was unmistakable. Nobody could've combined beauty and soul in this film in quite the way he did."

"The challenge was how do we navigate this story so that audiences feel the love and camaraderie and energy of these drivers and designers and mechanics and pit crew, but it doesn't depend upon a cliche kind of victory," adds Mangold. "I felt that if we could get deep enough into these unique characters, the winning and the losing of the races would be secondary to the winning and the losing of their lives."

The key to Mangold's approach was to create a more naturalistic portrait of what life was like for Shelby and Miles. In a modern era when CG spectacle has come to define many blockbuster films, the director felt it was critical to take a grounded approach to the action in FORD v FERRARI to both more accurately depict the 1960s and to help the audience understand what these drivers experienced as they were pushing themselves, and their cars, to the limit.

"The goal to me, in an age of incredibly computer-enhanced action movies, was that there could be something profoundly analog and real and gritty about the film and the sexiness of these beasts, the cars, their engines, the danger," Mangold says. "These characters are riding in a thin aluminum shell at 200 miles an hour around a track. The miracle that was their daring and their survival under these circumstances was something that I really wanted to try to convey."

The film opens with Shelby's victory at Le Mans and his subsequent diagnosis, before moving forward in time to 1963, when Ford Motor Co., once the industry leader, is trailing in sales behind U.S. competitor General Motors. Marketing Executive Lee Iacocca suggests that if Ford wants to appeal to the young people of the day looking to buy their first cars, the company should focus on speed-if Ford had winning race cars, their consumer automobiles would become that much more attractive by association. Since no company produced faster or sexier cars than Enzo Ferrari, an acquisition of the European carmaker seems like the answer. An envoy of top executives is dispatched to Ferrari headquarters to negotiate the purchase of the European carmaker only to return to Michigan empty-handed.

Outraged, Ford CEO Henry Ford II (aka The Deuce) immediately places his right-hand man, senior vice president Leo Beebe, in charge of a new high-tech race car division, Ford Advanced Vehicles, tasked with quickly building a car that will beat Ferrari at their own game-defeating them at the "Mount Everest of Motor Racing," the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The FAV team builds the exciting-looking GT40 Mark I, but its first outing at Le Mans in 1964 ends miserably. All three models fail to finish the race while Ferrari's place first, second, and third. Finishing fourth is the Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe, a fact that Ford II doesn't fail to notice.

Ford II hires Shelby to develop, test and ultimately oversee the corporation's entire racing program, but Shelby's lead test driver Ken Miles complicates the relationship. The outspoken Miles quickly makes an enemy of Beebe, who does his best to manipulate Shelby and box-out Miles at every turn. Still, against impossible odds and virtually non-stop corporate interference, Shelby and his team-which also includes chief engineer Phil Remington and young British mechanic Charlie Agapiou-build one of the greatest race cars ever produced: the Ford GT40 MKII. The vehicle changed the perception of both Ford, and America itself, when it took part in one of the most infamous racing showdowns in history, the 1966 running of Le Mans.

Mangold says, "This movie is about characters striving for excellence, trying to push against the onset of corporate market-tested group-think. It's an essential struggle in the 21st century in our country, the risk-taking and daring and leaps of instinct that were required to invent a lot of the things that define our country are things that we're almost too frightened to do anymore."

Adds Chernin: "We had always felt this could be an incredibly compelling film because it's about the behind-the-scenes conflicts and choices of passionate, competitive, driven, larger-than-life people caught in the very moment the American landscape was changing from the optimism of the post war 1950s and early 1960s to the more cynical late 1960s and '70s. It's also the best kind of American underdog story, one filled with nostalgia."


Although FORD v FERRARI features a top-notch ensemble cast playing a range of high-profile historical figures, the central drama turns on the heated relationship between renegades Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. From the start, the filmmaker knew which actors he wanted to cast as the figures at the heart of the story: Matt Damon and Christian Bale. "They're both incredibly gifted," Mangold says. "There was a natural camaraderie that I sensed from the beginning that really translates to the screen."

The director says that each performer had a certain kinship to his respective role. Like legendary car racer and sports car builder Carroll Shelby-whose creations included the Shelby Cobra and Shelby Daytona, as well as modified race-worthy editions of Ford's legendary Mustang series, the Shelby Mustang-Damon's celebrity status stretches back decades.

"He's been a movie star most of his life," Mangold says of Damon. "He carries with him the notoriety, the fame, from this giant long career, but he also faces the questions of every actor in their forties-where am I going?-in the same way that Shelby has to see and reimagine himself when the story begins."

Says Damon: "Shelby had been a great driver and had kind of hit the pinnacle of that. Because of this heart condition, he'd lost his great love. He was really on the cusp of fading into oblivion and just being another guy hustling trying to sell cars to people. This Ford opportunity was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for him. The stakes were incredibly huge for him as they were for Miles. This is an inflection point in both of their lives."

Bale has built a career crafting bold characters and, when portraying real-life people, whether Dicky Eklund in The Fighter or Dick Cheney in Vice, he notably submerges himself into the role to channel the essence of those characters. He also has a reputation for being passionate and outspoken, much in the same way that Ken Miles, who drove tanks in World War II before finding his way onto the race track, had been.

"In many ways, Ken Miles and Christian are similar in character," says Mangold of the actor, who had starred in the director's 2007 feature 3:10 to Yuma. "Christian is a remarkably gifted actor but doesn't love being a movie star. He loves the work when he can feel in control of the work, when he's behind the wheel as it were. Christian is also British, also has connections to working-class neighborhoods in the UK-he found a million ways to connect to Ken. I knew he would love the idea of training and driving in this film."

Offers Bale: "There's a freedom to playing real characters because they've got definite mannerisms, they've got their eccentricities, they've got their voice, everything is right there," Bale says. "You have the freedom to use all of that. You can look at it on video or you can bring the guy onto the set and have a chat with him-people are wonderfully eccentric and fantastic in that way. I feel more liberated playing a real person because I know it's not my own ego driving choices."

Adds producer Chernin of the two stars: "Bale and Damon are among a tiny group of the finest actors working today. They both have a tendency to disappear into their roles while maintaining major movie star wattage. One can believe that they would be characters who represent the last of an old school, brave, humble, gracious, male prototype."

Although the actors had never worked together previously, they were excited by the chance to share the screen and explore the friendship between these two singular characters. "Shelby just felt Ken Miles was indispensable to this mission, and Ken was known for not suffering fools," Damon says. "He was irascible and not afraid to speak his mind and did not want to just fall into step with everybody else. If he thought an idea was stupid, he'd tell you, and he had very little political skill or diplomatic skill. And so he was a constant source of frustration to Shelby because he couldn't get out of his own way. But Shelby really needed him to help build the car and to then subsequently drive it at Le Mans."

Mangold wanted his stars to do as much of the driving as they could with real vehicles on real tracks. "The whole idea was to do as much with our cast as humanly possible," the director says. "What I really wanted was to make the driving feel like you're really there. You're both hearing and seeing the bolts rattling in the chassis of the car. You're feeling the vibration of the engine. You're understanding how hard they're pushing this vehicle and how close to exploding it is.

"Today, we have computer-aided design," Mangold continues. "We can postulate with much greater accuracy what's going to work. These drivers had to get in cars in which there was no idea whether they'd hold together. There was no way with a pencil and an abacus you could know that. You just had to build the car and drive the car and see if it just blew up around you. There's a romance to that kind of daring and risk-taking and getting dirty with your own ambitions."

Before filming began, Bale trained with veteran stunt coordinator and stunt driver Robert Nagle to help him prepare; Bale drives both a Shelby Cobra and a variety of Ford GT40s on screen. The stunt coordinator spent a week with the actor at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix, Arizona, which specializes in racing. "Christian was very much into it and has a very strong aptitude for this" Nagle says. "He's the best actor I've ever trained for driving."


Jon Bernthal portrays Lee Iacocca, who, from his humble roots as the son of Italian immigrants in Allentown, Pennsylvania, became a legend in the automotive business, reviving U.S. automaker Chrysler during the 1980s. Bernthal is an athletic stage, screen and television actor known for emotionally-damaged characters on television series such as The Punisher and The Walking Dead and films including Sicario, The Wolf of Wall Street and Wind River.

"While I usually play men who depend on their brawn, their might and their anger, in a way I found Iacocca as a man to be as strong as any I've ever played," Bernthal says. "His strength comes from his intensity. It comes from his intellect. When he was at Ford, Iacocca had the presence of mind to understand that there was a whole generation of 17-year-olds with money in their pocket who were interested in rock 'n' roll and sex and moving fast, and the stale, stagnant repetition of reproducing 1950s cars was failing Ford."

Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, who stars as Claire Randall in the long-running Starz series Outlander, plays Mollie Miles, Ken's wife, and mother to their young son, Peter. "What I love about the character of Mollie is that even though she's a stay-at-home mom in the film, she's very much an equal partner in the relationship," Balfe says. "He's a little rough around the edges with his personality and his people skills may not be that great. But this is where their relationship is strong. She tells him when he needs to pull up his boot straps and to also encourage him. There's this real sense that they're a team who supports each other. It was a beautiful thing to be able to play."

Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning writer and actor Tracy Letts (August: Osage County, Lady Bird) portrays Detroit auto legend Henry Ford II, the CEO of Ford Motor Company from 1960 to 1979. The auto racing and sports genre represented a new opportunity for the actor, who was intrigued with the story's historical importance. "It's a classic story of man versus machine, man versus man, and man versus himself," Letts says. "It touches upon a lot of the points of a sports story, but at the same time the historical story that's being told here is a good one. A lot of the cars that we know now, and a lot of the advancements we've seen with technology, starts with this period."

Josh Lucas is Leo Beebe, the Ford Motors Company executive who was given control over Ford's racing program. Best known for his roles in Sweet Home Alabama and the Oscar-winning drama A Beautiful Mind, Lucas previously worked with Bale in 2000's American Psycho. "There's a lyrical quality to the writing," says Lucas. "There's an epic quality to it. There's a kind of poetic aspect to this story on the energy and intensity of race car driving.

Like his father, Peter Miles is completely consumed with the sport of car racing; Peter is portrayed by Noah Jupe who co-starred with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt in the 2018 hit A Quiet Place. "Peter is a happy boy, but he's also a kid whose dad could die at any point in a race," Jupe says. "From an early age, he's been brought into the racing world and wants to be a racer when he's older just like his dad. It's all he's ever known."

Veteran actor Remo Girone, an Italian leading man of films, television, and stage, plays Enzo Ferrari, whose Scuderia Ferrari racing team dominated the sport for years. Girone is best known for his starring role as a mafia leader in the popular Italian television mini-series La Piovra (The Octopus) as well as his co-starring role as an Italian-American crime boss opposite Ben Affleck in Live by Night.

Ray McKinnon, an American character actor, writer, and director best known for creating the acclaimed SundanceTV drama series, Rectify, plays Phil Remington, the chief engineer at Shelby American. A technical genius who could fix or fabricate anything, Remington is a key partner to Carroll Shelby in helping develop the Ford GT40 MKII that took on Ferrari at Le Mans.

JJ Feild, best known for his roles in Captain America; The First Avenger, Austenland and currently stars opposite Idris Elba and Piper Perabo on Netflix's comedy series "Turn Up Charlie" portrays Roy Lunn, Ford engineer responsible for designing and developing the GT40 race car.

British actor Jack McMullen portrays young Shelby American mechanic Charlie Agapiou-known in the film as Chaz, he works with Ken Miles at Miles' foreign car repair shop in Hollywood before joining him at Shelby's shop in Venice in early 1963. Ken was something of a father figure to young Charlie.

The production also enlisted the sons of racing icons depicted in the film-many of whom are or were champion drivers themselves and grew up knowing Carroll Shelby-to portray their fathers. Some of the notable stunt drivers include Alex Gurney, son of racing legend Dan Gurney; Derek Hill, son of former Formula One champion Phil Hill; and Jeff Bucknum, son of American racecar driver Ronnie Bucknum.

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