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Filmmakers: Behind the wheel of a very human race in ‘Ford v Ferrari’

by Ace Damon
Ford v Ferrari is driven by James Mangold, flanked here by actors Matt Damon and Christian Bale

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James Mangold's "Ford v Ferrari" features immersive racing sequences, obtained with detail and boldness. However, the filmmakers agree that it would have been a non-beginner had it not been for the focus on the story and the character. Mangold, editors Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker, sound designer David Giammarco, production designer François Audouy and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael shared some of the secrets of how they put viewers in the cockpit for the famous 24-hour Le Mans, 1966

Mangold: I'm not a big competitor … I'm fascinated by the struggle, before computer models, to create something out of nothing that can overcome anything that exists. And you need to do it with your hands and put your body at risk. You don't know if you built something that will stop until you get behind the wheel.

Giammarco: For Jim, it's all a story. We were lucky to record GT-40s with correct period and a Ferrari of that time. Sonically, if we get accuracy, it's great, but it's really more important to tell the story.

Mangold: The race would look like an Epcot-Imax demo video if it weren't for its connection to the characters (the protagonists were played by Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles). I try to make everything as specific as if it were a dialogue scene.

Matt Damon, director James Mangold and Christian Bale (in the car) on the Twentieth Century Fox Ford x Ferrari set. Mangold says his racing movie takes less after "Grand Prix" than "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" by your male friendship.

(Merrick Morton / 20th Century Fox)

Audouy: From the beginning, the movie had this huge third act racing sequence, which is a third of the movie: the Le Mans race in 1966. It's probably the most famous race track in the world. It is a 13 kilometer course that crosses the interior of France. We settled at an airport in Agua Dulce for four or five months. (The production recorded scenes from the field outside Atlanta and a running track in Savannah.)

Mangold: To communicate what makes Le Mans special, we couldn't just do a spectacular 20-minute race with a series of cuts on the scoreboard, then time cuts and then it's over. It was something you had to live and endure just as running is a real-life marathon. It's "I want to know what they are feeling, what they are doing and why." I want the photos to tell the story of how I'm riding the car in front of me, how I'm making up for the fact that my brakes aren't working.

Papamichael: We like to get close with wide lenses. It's like when we tell the story of Johnny Cash (Mangold's "Walk the Line"); It's not from the public's perspective, it's not long lenses.

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Giammarco: Jim wanted us to be in those cars with (the characters). The suspension shaking and trembling everywhere, we wanted to create this ambience, like being in a car that is about to get off the track. The things that hit the car, the vibrations, the rain on the roof. Inside the GT-40, there is a small ring hanging from the window lock. So, our editor Foley, she cut these little things, they're very small, but (the sound) comes out. That was one thing he loved: Little, little tinkling as the suspension moaned and swayed and the engine roared.

Audouy: We ended up building about 34 cars from scratch. When you recreate them, you want as much detail as possible to make them look real. With Ferraris, we manually apply hundreds of small red rivets. We add meticulous, loving detail – the patches on the seat belts on the racing belts, the badges on the steering wheels, the stickers on the outside.

McCusker: One reason it looks so visceral is that they are real cars; They are really in those cars. They could not go at 320 km / h; some could go maybe half of that. We apply editorial techniques to speed them up.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale with director James Mangold on the set "Ford v Ferrari".

Matt Damon and Christian Bale with director James Mangold on the set "Ford v Ferrari".

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(Merrick Morton / 20th Century Fox)

Papamichael: These cars look more dynamic when you're inches from them, from floor to floor, with a wide-angle lens that really transmits full speed. You see the floor. A few inches from the camera, another car enters the scene and almost holds the frosted box (from the camera).

BucklandBeing in the GT-40 cockpit with Miles – even if we stop outside for a moment to demonstrate its maneuverability, is still a very subjective experience.

Mangold: We built special platforms where the actors set up but weren't necessarily directing; the driver would sit above them or to the side so we could drive them over 100 mph through a car slalom.

Papamichael: This is a minimum amount of green screen. Stunts are designed to keep cars inches apart. When you see a car coming out in the background or through your viewpoint on the windshield, it's all choreographic driving and mechanical special effects. They are 90 km / h and we were in chase vehicles, hanging on the edge of our seats as well; really informed the performances.

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Mangold: At speed, there is a vibration throughout the chassis. There are particles in the air. The wind gets into every crack and crack in the car. Not only does it look better (than the green screen); acting is better because they have more to balance.

Giammarco: There were times when we extracted sounds, those internal moments for the character.

Mangold: Ken Miles who gets in the car at the beginning of Le Mans is not the same character who gets out of the car at the end. I could give you technical stuff, but that's why it works. Everyone has a bow during the action, so the action doesn't become a kind of eye candy or eye candy to occupy you until the next "acting scene".

McCusker: I was asked, "What is it like to cut a car movie with characters?" It's actually a character movie with cars.

Mangold: The movie is basically about intimacy, friendship, mourning and grace, and the kind of brotherhood of men and women who do things, not about the outcome of a specific race, which is more of a film convention, but not exactly what it is. is life. .

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Featurette in James Mangold's racing drama "Ford vs. Ferrari" (2019)

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