Michael Fassbender has gotten behind the wheel to narrate the racing film 1. The Formula One documentary is produced by Exclusive Media’s Spitfire Pictures. “We are honored that Michael has agreed to lend his voice to our film. He is one of the most talented actors in the world today as well as being a Formula One fan,” said Exclusive co-chair Nigel Sinclair and fellow producer Michael Shevloff today. Flat Out Films and Diamond Docs are also producing. Directed by Paul Crowder and written by Mark Monroe, 1 takes a very up close and on the track approach to the racing sport. It also features appearances by some Formula One champions like Sir Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill. Paul Crowder and Mark Monroe are repped by ICM Partners. Michael Fassbender is repped by CAA and Troika.
Fox’s deal announced today extends its current pact with NASCAR by eight years to 2022 and is worth $2.4 billion, the first fee increase for these racing rights in a decade. The network will pay about $300 million annually beginning in 2015 and keep its Daytona 500 , add TV Everywhere digital rights that had resided within the racing series previously, and air the first third of the Sprint Cup Series. The contract was worked out two years before the old one expired as part of an exclusive negotiating window. ESPN and Turner are next up for non-exclusive talks, which won’t begin until next summer. NASCAR’s current TV package is worth about $4.48 billion.
EXCLUSIVE: Rush, the Peter Morgan-scripted drama about the battle between ’70s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, will rev up for action this week. The Ron Howard-directed film doesn’t really start principal photography until after Chris Hemsworth (he plays Hunt) completes Marvel’s The Avengers in a couple of months, but he and Inglourious Basterds‘ Daniel Bruhl (Lauda) will be around this weekend at Nurburgring Race Track in Germany. A race will be held there, featuring the Formula One classic cars that were driven during the 70s. Howard will be shooting 35mm all weekend with his cast.
This is more than just an opportunity for Howard to get generic footage on a race track; Nurburgring plays a pivotal part in the drama. That’s the track where Lauda, when he was reigning world champion and the only driver to ever complete a lap on that track in less than 7 minutes, tried to rally the other drivers to boycott the German Grand Prix race from being held there in 1976 because he felt safety arrangements weren’t up to snuff. When the other drivers voted against it, Lauda took the wheel and crashed his Ferrari on the second lap. Because it was so early in the race, Lauda’s car was full of fuel; his face was badly burned and he inhaled toxic hot gases that scorched his lungs before three rival drivers got out of their cars and pulled him from the wreckage. The film focuses on Lauda’s competitive spirit, which prompted him to get back behind the wheel despite being in severe pain six weeks later in Italy to stop Hunt from taking the world title.
EXCLUSIVE: Chris Hemsworth will get behind the wheel to star in the role of British Formula One driver James Hunt in Rush, the Peter Morgan-scripted drama that shapes up as the next directing effort for Ron Howard. Cross Creek Pictures is the backer, with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Howard producing alongside Brian Oliver and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.
Talks are underway for Hemsworth to play Hunt in the story of his rivalry with Niki Lauda for Formula One circuit dominance in the 1970s. Deals aren’t done yet, but it’s all shaping up for this picture to happen early next year. Hemsworth is already set to reprise his role as Thor in the Marvel Studios sequel that has been dated for a July 26, 2013 release by Disney. There is no distributor aboard yet on Rush, but considering that both Imagine and Working Title are based at Universal, the likelihood is that the picture will land there. The prime mover has been Oliver’s Cross Creek, which, after making a killing on Black Swan, is in the middle of several major pictures including the George Clooney-directed The Ides of March. Hemsworth’s repped by IFA and ROAR.
James Murdoch is spearheading News Corp’s bid to take over Formula One motor racing, according to Sky News. Murdoch and his father Rupert are considering teaming up on the venture with Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man and Latin America’s biggest pay-TV operator. Wall Street bank JP Morgan is advising News Corp. If successful, it would be the first time the Murdochs have owned an entire sport outright. They already control TV rights to lucrative Premier League soccer in the UK.
Cable TV channel Speed, also owned by News Corp, currently broadcasts Formula One racing in the U.S. The Murdochs would want to feed Formula One exclusively to their pay-TV global empire, which includes Sky Latin America, Sky Deutschland and Star TV in Asia. But Formula One teams such as Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes would be worried about the Murdochs taking control of their sport, sports market analyst Sportcal tells me. Formula One relies on sponsorship for most of its income, and sponsors such as Spanish bank Santander, Shell and Red Bull need TV exposure. Taking Formula One behind a pay-TV paywall would meet serious opposition, says Sportcal editorial director Callum Murray. “It would totally change their funding model,” he says.
European anti-trust regulators would also scrutinise the deal carefully. Ten years ago, German pay-TV mogul Leo Kirch bought Formula One for the same reason: he wanted to feed motor racing rights …