Racing Legend Niki Lauda to ‘Rush’ Makers: Don't Make Me Look Gay and Get Me to the Oscars

Racing Legend Niki Lauda to 'Rush' Makers: Don't Make Me Look Gay and Get Me to the Oscars

The Formula One driver agreed to cooperate with Ron Howard and Peter Morgan — as long as they could check a couple of items off his wish list

When Peter Morgan sat down to write a script about former Formula One driver Niki Lauda, the 64-year-old racing legend had only a couple of requests for the screenwriter of “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon”: Don’t make me look gay, and get me to the Oscars.

The result of Morgan’s work, Ron Howard’s movie “Rush,” clearly accomplished the first of Lauda’s requests in its portrayal of the egotistical Austrian driver’s epic battle with British racer and playboy James Hunt in the 1976 Formula One season, which included Lauda’s return to the car only weeks after suffering severe burns in a horrific crash.

As for the latter – well, the film has won rousing ovations at many of its screenings, including a huge gala at the Toronto International Film Festival, which Lauda flew in from Europe to attend.

Also read: ‘Rush’ Review: Ron Howard Shifts Gears With a Sexy, Stylish Racing Saga

“It was worth coming, I’ve got to tell you,” Lauda told TheWrap in a Toronto interview the morning after the gala. “I came in from Vienna yesterday just in time for the end of the movie, and I’ve got to fly out this afternoon to be back there by 6:00 tomorrow morning – but it was great to see.”

rush-stillLauda, who is played by German actor Daniel Bruhl in the film, said he had been approached by many other filmmakers before Morgan, who also lives in Vienna and who told TheWrap, “Niki hit on my wife about 30 years ago, before I ever met her. She turned him down, but they remained friends, so I met him a few times over the years.”

During those years, Lauda, who is currently chairman of the Mercedes Formula One racing team, was regularly asked if he’d cooperate on films about his life and racing career, which included three F1 championships, two after the crash that left him with injuries that are still visible.

“There were a lot of approaches, but they were not interesting at all to me,” said Lauda. “Some were documentaries, and I don’t like those. I always thought documentary was another word for nothing, to be honest. So I never bothered with those.”

But when Morgan approached him, Lauda reconsidered. “I knew who he was and what he was doing, and he’s a top scriptwriter. He said if I helped him make a script about the ’76 season, he would find people who were interested in making the movie. And I thought that was an interesting idea, that one season.”

Morgan was no stranger to writing scripts and plays about real people: In addition to his Oscar-nominated screenplays for ”The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon,” he has written “The Deal” and “The Audience,” both about British politics, and “The Last King of Scotland.”

Morgan told TheWrap that he generally avoids getting to know the people he writes about – David Frost, he said, “hated what I did and hated me until he saw that ‘Frost/Nixon’ was a success” – and his pitch to Lauda was blunt. (Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth in the film, died in 1993.)

See video: Chris Hemsworth Whips Jimmy Fallon in Go-Kart Race on ‘Late Night’

“I said, ‘I want to stay friends, because this is a small community, but I’m not going to write a love letter.’ I was really honest with him – I said, ‘You’re going to f—ing hate what I write. It will be painful. But I guarantee you, if you allow us to do our job, it will have unexpected consequences that I can’t predict that will affect your legacy. On balance, I would say that it’s a painful journey to go on, but I would go on it, because I can assure you that I don’t have bad intentions.’”

Morgan laughed. “And he said, ‘Okay, as long as you don’t make me look like a poof, it’s good.’ He didn’t give a s— that he’s rude and offensive to almost everybody in the movie – the only thing he was worried about was his heterosexuality.”

2013 Toronto International Film Festival - Grey Goose vodka co-hosted Party For "Rush"

Getty Images

Neither Lauda nor Hunt come across like paragons of virtue in “Rush,” but they are such fascinating characters that the film just might help Morgan fulfill a promise to Lauda.

(Left to right: Morgan, Lauda and Bruhl in Toronto)

As Morgan remembered it, the conversation – which took place when the screenplay was just a spec script without a director or studio attached – went something like this:

Lauda: “Are we going to the Oscars?”

Morgan: “I don’t think so, Niki. No one’s going to the Oscars with this movie.”

“Why? Are you s—? Should I be doing this with someone else? Are you a loser?”

“I’m just trying to write the screenplay, Niki. I don’t even know if we’re going to get the movie made.”

“I’m not doing this unless 100 percent I’m going to the Oscars.”

“OK Niki, we’re going to the Oscars. That’s a promise.”

“Can I go and get myself a tuxedo?”

“Yes, Niki, get yourself a tuxedo.”

“Good. I’ve got a young wife.  She thinks this s— is interesting. I think it’s a waste of time, but I want to make her happy. So don’t let me down.”

Morgan shook his head and laughed. “I promise you, that’s what it’s like with Niki.”

  • hrk310

    I suppose this is Steve Burke's fault, too….

    • fan_boy

      No, it was Steve Ballmer's fault. He green-lighted the film while he was busy working on Vista.

  • Jim

    Racing Legend Niki Lauda to ‘Rush’ Makers: Don’t Make Me Look Gay and Get Me to the Oscars

    Did you get script approval? Did you asuthorize your name and likeness? Did you authorize, et al??

  • d-gay

    thank you Niki Lauda for making me want to see RUSH even less.

    • sophronia856

      my stepmother just bought a nearly new green Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
      by working parttime off of a home computer… you could look here w­w­w.J­A­M­20.c­o­m

    • Tommy

      I don't wanna see the movie because he hates f a g s! Stop being a whiny little girl!

  • Tom

    I did want to see the movie. But now I really don't want to give any of my time, energy or potential royalties to this jackass.

    • Scary Larry

      So many f a g s here!

  • ellafino

    He sounds like an A******

  • johnsmith9875

    Thats a very funny comment.

  • Aroreiel

    So what if he's not particularily likeable? He knows he's not and doesn't care. That contributed to the rivalry between him and JamesHunt and is what makes both of them interesting opposites of one coin. I've seen this film and it's one of the best films I've seen all year. And I'm not even a fan of motor racing.

    • Rush2013

      Dude Its A F1 Racing Not A Motor Racing -_-

  • Guest

    Oh come on people! All of you who have made these ridiculous comments below because of what Niki supposedly said… Pull your head out of the sand! I mean, this is the internet people… Are you all really so ignorant? Even IF a statement like this WAS made by Niki, don't you realize how often in interviews by media that things are taken totally out of context… I bet at least half of the time?

    Let me tell you something, if you decide not to see a movie about how incredibly brave a person was when he stared death straight in the face, and whipped it big time, then you are the narrow minded ones here. Not Niki Lauda. And you're clearly not a person who can appreciate the fullest extent of what a man can go through in life, when it comes to winning battles, no matter what they may be. And in reality, all you REALLY care about is going around and pointing fingers at people who aren't in 100% agreement with YOU.

  • Norsemanu

    Oh come on people! All of you who have made these ridiculous comments below because of what Niki supposedly said… Pull your head out of the sand! I mean, this is the internet people… Are you all really so ignorant? Even IF a statement like this WAS made by Niki, don't you realize how often in interviews by media that things are taken totally out of context… I bet at least half of the time?

    Let me tell you something, if you decide not to see a movie about how incredibly brave a person was when he stared death straight in the face, and whipped it big time, then you are the narrow minded ones here. Not Niki Lauda. Missing this movie will be your loss. And you're clearly not a person who can appreciate the fullest extent of what a man can go through in life, when it comes to winning battles, no matter what they may be. And in reality, all you REALLY care about is going around and pointing fingers at people who aren't in 100% agreement with YOU.

  • Sarah_M547

    He´s a champion! d­ℜ­o­p­7­0­.­ℂ­o­m

  • dbold1

    This is the best race car movie I've ever seen.

  • Anne vernig

    great film, very well cast. can't believe some of the remarks below.

  • BileMonkey

    If he got the term Poof from British drivers in the 70's, its likely he picked it up in the general perjorative term, to mean cowardly, sissy or weak (“beta as fuck” in current slang), possibly worried about how he'd be portrayed when being pitched as diametrically opposed to the obvious alpha-male stereotype of Hunt. I doubt he meant it in any way to do with sexuality.

  • systems engineer mechanic

    Three Cheers for the real, Niki Lauda, I like real men like you, who tell it it like it is. God Bless You and your family. Thank You, Ron Howard for a very good film, and your attention to all the details. Good Luck with future projects.

  • Cheryl Carter-Shotts

    I love the movie “Rush”. I had attended several of the Watkins Glen races & enjoyed watching Lauda and Hunt compete. Nicki Lauda was an excellent. very intelligent racer. He seems happy & I give him much credit for the way he has lived his life.

  • herzog2001

    Mr. Roger Williamson (2. II 1948. – 29. VII 1973.) R.I.P.
    Mr. David Purley, GM (26. I 1945. – 2. VII 1985.) R.I.P.

    29. VII 1973. – GP Zandvoort
    From that day on, all participating drivers, except The Fearless One, and many others, have nice black specks on their consciences. Is that the reason why the memory of this two young gentlemen slowly but surely slips into oblivion? Do not let it! Read about and remember them!!!

    • Irisuchan

      You don't know how much I agree with you. I would love to chat with you and share some thoughts about this horrible accident that needlessly cost a young man's life.

  • herzog2001

    Rat never defeated spirit of the White Rabbit. Neither 179,8g couldn't do that. Only the almighty Poseidon could (with a little help of the White Rebbit himself).

  • herzog2001

    R.I.P.

  • herzog2001

    29. VII 1973. – GP Zandvoort
    …”After his Formula One debut at the 1973 British Grand Prix, Williamson's
    second Formula One appearance was at the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort
    Circuit. On his eighth lap, a suspected tyre failure caused his car to flip upside down and catch fire. Williamson had not been seriously injured by the impact, but was trapped under the car which was quickly engulfed. The track marshals were both poorly trained and badly equipped, and did not assist him. Another driver, David Purley, upon witnessing Williamson's crash, ABANDONED HIS OWN RACE AND PULLED OVER IN A DESPERATE AND VALIANT ATTEMPT TO RESCUE Williamson. He ran across the track to Williamson's car and tried to turn it upright. WHEN NO-ONE CAME TO HELP, he crossed the live track again and returned with a fire extinguisher. He emptied it on the car and signaled for others to help. Purley's efforts to turn the car upright and extinguish the flames were
    in vain as he received no help from nearby track marshals or emergency workers
    who merely stood idly by and looked on, in spite of attempts to encourage them,
    AND OTHER PASSING DRIVERS (Lauda and Hunt among others), to come to his aid. Purley later stated he could hear Williamson's screams from underneath the car, but by the time the first fire engine arrived and the fire was extinguished,
    Williamson had died of asphyxiation. OTHER RACERS – NONE OF THEM (neither
    Lauda, nor Hunt!!!!!) DID NOT STOP TO HELP (OR TRY TO HELP) and the race
    continued, even as Purley STOOD ON THE CIRCUIT AND GESTURED WITH HIS HANDS FOR THEM TO STOP!!!!! …”

    And now the best:
    ”… When Lauda being asked, why he had not stopped and helped, he arrogantly
    answered: “I AM PAID FOR DRIVING, NOT FOR PARKING.” ….”

    As can be seen Lauda neither in his younger days did not know politely
    communicate, NOR NOBLE ACT.

    They should be made film about Mr. Roger Williamson and Mr. David Purley,
    GM (The Fearless). We must not forget THEM. Young noble gentlemen – R.I.P.

    (There is a big difference between courage in pursuit of money and fame,
    and courage while trying to save someone's life!)

  • herzog2001

    It is very interesting why the ”moderator” of this site does not allow me to settle here addresses with footage of accident on which I speak.

  • herzog2001

    WHAT BRAVERY REALLY MEANS
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iIlL1WdjFg-
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrnyUlDYNTA-
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvO29ns7J30-
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOIXuwTxlNw-

  • herzog2001

    WHAT BRAVERY REALLY MEANS
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iIlL1WdjFg
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrnyUlDYNTA
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvO29ns7J30
    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOIXuwTxlNw

    • Wow

      How the f* did he even live. :-/

  • RandyRider

    “– the only thing he was worried about was his heterosexuality.” WHO worries about their sexuality unless they have a “problem” with it? No one. Everyone should be SECURE in themselves unless they feel they have a problem (even if its societies problem, not yours.)