Last week the British press and international sports news outlets reported that producer-director William Pohlad’s upcoming drama about Formula One racing champion Jackie Stewart had spun out of control. Now a person familiar with the production says the high-profile Grand Prix drama is is still speeding down the track.
Pohlad, the Minneapolis-based filmmaker/financier whose River Road Entertainment funded Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain,” Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” met Stewart in the 1970s. Pohlad trained for Formula One racing in his twenties and planned to draw on that experience as director.
The film's focus is Stewart’s competitive rivalry and off-track friendship with his racing protégé, the late Francois Cevert.
The dashing French driver, Stewart’s partner on the Tyrell racing team, was a media star in his own right. He tragically died in practice for the 1973 U.S. Grand Prix, which was to be Stewart’s next-to-last race. Sir Jackie, now 74, retired from racing after Cevert’s accident.
England’s Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Sir Jackie’s wife, Lady Helen Stewart, vetoed the film drama. She reportedly objected because the script (by “Children of Men” screenwriter Timothy J. Sexton) fabricated an affair between her and Cevert. The Stewarts, childhood sweethearts, have been married for 50 years.
Lady Stewart, 65, said the soap opera element “was probably the most exciting part of the film- if it was true. But it wasn't. Francois was a great friend of Jackie's and of mine but they wanted to make something of it - which was crazy.” Because of her opposition, Lady Stewart said, the film was “scrapped.”
Not so says Pohlad publicist Mara Buxbaum. The project was delayed, partly to avoid a conflict with Ron Howard’s Grand Prix film “Rush,” starring Chris Hemsworth, due for release this fall. Casting for Pohlad’s Stewart film continues, with Sir Jackie favoring motorcycle racer Ewan McGregor to star. The project “remains very much in development at River Road,” Buxbaum said.
More immediately, Pohlad is set to direct “Love & Mercy,” a biography of reclusive, psychologically troubled Beach Boys singer-songwriter Brian Wilson. Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”) portrays the young Wilson. John Cusack (“High Fidelity”) will play him later in life. Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”) plays Wilson’s therapist, who claimed to be the co-writer of some of Wilson's later work. The film begins principal photography in Los Angeles July 15.