Perhaps the most successful example of what some would derogatorily call a “studio hack,” Ron Howard has been making efficient mainstream entertainments since the early 1980s. The best of these (Apollo 13, Parenthood, Splash, Cocoon) are fun, engaging movies, without any particular style or subtext to elevate them beyond the realm of decent Friday night fodder; films I might happily get sucked into while flipping through cable, but never anything that I would necessarily revisit on purpose, or feel particularly passionate about. So when I say that Rush is by far my favorite film of his career, it’s a qualified statement, though an enthusiastic one nevertheless.
On very rainy, very grey day in May, I sat down in an empty theater—save a lone critic or two—for an early screening of Ron Howard’s Rush. Naturally my anticipation ran high, but if you were to have told me that I’d find myself wholly embracing a Hollywood film about Formula 1 racing, I’d have vehemently disagreed. However, from the very beginning, Howard’s film totally captured me, offering a dynamic feature spun from the true story of Niki Lauda and James Hunt, their rivalry, and the near-fatal accident that almost cost Lauda his life.
I knew the producer on the film and he told me there was a movie called Rush about Formula 1 racing. So I was interested and went in not knowing that I was going to meet Ron, and obviously, that was incredible. I always hoped to work with a director as good as Ron. He’s a brilliant director, as we’ve seen over the years, but he liked my work and it went on from there. He’s a real collaborative director and an incredible guy. He really inspires people and was a pleasure to work with.
Yes, my personal connection is that my father built one of the cars used in the 1970s. He made a version of the Formula 1 cars and that car is actually in the film. So I used to go visit Formula 1 tracks and watch the Grand Prix. It’s an incredible sport.
Ron Howard’s upcoming film Rush tells the story of the infamous rivalry between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the World Championship at Fuji in Japan. There’s no better way to gear up for all the burning rubber than to watch C’était un Rendezvous.
Director Claude Lelouch’s nine-minute-long cinematic masterpiece was made in the same year that Howard’s film is set. Rendezvous depicts a high-speed early-morning drive through the streets of Paris that most certainly broke a few laws. There is no narration. No music. Simply the sound of a revving engine going through its paces, images of an awakening City of Lights whizzing by (thanks to a grill-mounted camera) and an ending that is trés romantique.
Rendezvous has become the stuff of legend (Who drove the car? Was it a Formula One driver or Lelouch himself? What car was used?), with fans tracing the actual route in Paris—or making their own versions in other cities, including avid car collector Jay Leno, who did his own tribute ("one of my favorite car films of all time") on a circuit near his Beverly Hills home in a Mercedes SLS AMG.
C’était un Rendezvous (1976) [full]:
Rush (2013) [trailer]:
It’s been a sad few weeks in the literary world—following the passings of Maurice Sendak and Carlos Fuentes last month, we begin June by mourning the passing of poet, short story author, screenwriter, novelist and general sci-fi giant/master of the alien and sinister, Ray Bradbury, who passed away yesterday at the age of 91.
Bradbury left an indelible mark on the literary and entertainment worlds thanks to his vivid imagination, eerie ability to predict the future and long, varied and prolific career. Here are just a few of the myriad examples of how Bradbury’s works have lived on off the page, on the big screen, small screen and in song.
Several adaptations and iterations exist of Bradbury’s most important (and frequently challenged in schools) novel, Fahrenheit 451, the author’s spinning of a dystopian future in which dissent is virtually nonexistent and books are burned en masse. The most iconic of these is François Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation, the only film the French New Wave legend ever made in English. It won several awards, and the general approval of the author.
The novel was later rearticulated as Michael Moore’s firebrand 2004 documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, a much-discussed and provocative look at America during the beginnings of the War on Terror. The tagline, lifted directly from the one for Bradbury’s novel, was "The Temperature at Which Freedom Burns."
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Walt Disney adapted the haunted-carnival story and Halloween staple into a 1983 film starring Jonathan Pryce and Jason Robards. It flopped at the box office but was up for many major sci-fi awards, not to mention providing a whole lot of nightmare fuel for a generation of American children.
In the novel, two teenage boys have a run-in with an alluring but terrifying traveling carnival that turns the town upside down. In the South Park episode "Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes," a certain sinister department store assumes the role.
The Shakespearean title of the work appears in a number of album titles and songs, ranging from heavy metal to Britrock and acid jazz. It appears as the chorus on this track from 2Pac’s debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.
The Martian Chronicles
Bradbury’s alien-encounter epic series was turned into a three-part miniseries in 1980 and sported an all-star cast, including Roddy McDowell, Rock Hudson and Bernadette Peters. The script deviated quite a bit from the novel, but more importantly, we had no idea Mars looked so much like a Hollywood soundstage littered with leftover props from the Stonehenge scene from This Is Spinal Tap.
Giant-head wearing master of the turntables Deadmau5 crafted his single, "The Veldt," based on a Bradbury short story of the same name. In the story, two parents who build their children a freakish nursery replicated after the African savannah, complete with robotic lions, end up becoming victims of their own creation. You probably would not have guessed that had you just listened to the deadmau5 track, though.
If any band would be major fans of Ray Bradbury, it pretty much had to be Rush, now, didn’t it? In 1984, the Canadian prog-rockers released "The Body Electric," which borrows its name from a Bradbury short story, "I Sing The Body Electric" (which in turn, borrows its name from a Walt Whitman poem… how meta) as well as some thematic elements (the plot about humanoid robots).
One of Elton John’s greatest hits, "Rocket Man (And I Think It’s Going To Be a Long, Long Time)" echoes the plot of Bradbury’s short story, The Rocket Man, in which an astronaut experiences a case of the "grass is always greener" syndrome and misses his wife and family while in space.
The Man and His Life
For a bonus entry, here is Rachel Bloom’s 90th birthday tribute to the man and his literature: "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury." This hilarious—but NSFW—tribute includes couplets like, "You write about Earthlings going to Mars / I write about blowing you in my car." Whoa.