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F1 goes to Hollywood... at last

NEWS STORY
31/05/2009

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone isn't usually one to pass by the chance to make a buck or two. However, he has certainly had a black spot when it comes to the marketing of F1. No comic, no cartoon, no cuddly toys and no movie. The rights to produce each one of these lines could bring Bernie over $10m a year and it seems he has finally cottoned on.

Writing in this month's issue of Motor Sport, Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt reveals that Ecclestone is in talks with a movie studio about a big screen film following the sport from its early days to the present day. "We've been talking to them for a long time, about doing a film from the old days all the way through," says Ecclestone.

With trademark Ecclestone confusion he says that the film will be in the style of a documentary but "it will not effectively be a documentary," and he stresses that it will be for "the big screen."

F1 has had a chequered past with films. Probably the most famous Hollywood adaptation of the sport was Grand Prix, the 1966 film starring James Garner with cameo appearances from most of the top drivers of the day including Phil Hill and Graham Hill. Since then, the quality of F1's outings on the silver screen slipped into reverse.

In 1977 the acclaimed director Sydney Pollack turned his attention to the sport and the result was Bobby Deerfield, a film about an emotionally distant driver. It had all the assets for it to be a classic with Pollack at the helm, Al Pacino in the lead role and Brabham providing Carlos Pace's car for the race scenes. However, as Ecclestone says, it failed "because the American producers got hold of it. They wanted to turn it into a love story."

More recently, renowned racing fan Sylvester Stallone tried to get an F1 movie off the ground in the late 1990s. A full script was drawn up for the movie, which was centred around Ayrton Senna, but it soon hit the buffers. Reportedly there were two big hurdles.

Firstly, the FIA apparently wanted to check the script to ensure that F1 wouldn't be portrayed in a sensational plot that was detrimental to its image. Secondly, Stallone allegedly wanted the rights to the film for good but Ecclestone couldn't guarantee this as they were due to revert back to the FIA in 2010. The final nail in the coffin was believed to be a dispute over the fee charged by F1. Stallone turned his attention to CART and instead made the lamentable 2001 movie Driven.

Ecclestone remained in touch with Stallone but confirms that Rambo and Rocky star is not involved with the latest project. "I haven't spoken to him lately," admits the F1 supremo.

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