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Michael Mann still has another gear. At 80, he’s driving ‘Ferrari’

by Chloe Baker
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Filmmaker

At the age of 80, Michael Mann, renowned for his work in film, still possesses a remarkable creative drive. Mann, known for iconic scenes like Crockett’s white Ferrari in “Miami Vice,” high-octane car chases in “Heat,” and the gripping taxi ride in “Collateral,” has had a lifelong fascination with automobiles, stemming from his upbringing in Chicago. He attributes his affection for cars to the dynamic nature of the city, where driving is a way of life, especially during the rainy moments when streets glisten and cars gleam with reflections. Mann’s love for motion and speed is palpable.

Notably, Mann has also been a racing enthusiast, periodically participating in the Ferrari Challenge, a four-day racing event that he describes as an immersive experience where the rest of the world fades away. So, the driving instructions given by Enzo Ferrari, portrayed by Adam Driver in Mann’s latest film, “Ferrari,” such as “Break later, hold the line,” resonate deeply with him.

Mann’s dedication to racing goes beyond casual interest. He once embarked on a remarkable feat, practicing on a road in Atlanta, completing 75 laps without a pause. Yet, what he treasures most from those laps, especially the best ones, is the sensation of true mastery over the car.

Mann’s connection with automobiles is mirrored in his filmmaking. As an 80-year-old filmmaker known for works like “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Insider,” and “Thief,” he displays a rare synergy with the art of storytelling through movies. His films are finely crafted, offering a visceral experience that delves into existentialism. His relentless pursuit of perfection, meticulous research, and unwavering dedication mirror the single-mindedness of his protagonists.

Adam Driver, who stars in “Ferrari,” acknowledges Mann’s deep understanding of character psychology, noting that it forms the core of their discussions. Mann’s focus on character emotions and feelings is evident, with technical aspects serving as a means to support those intangible elements.

“Ferrari,” which hits theaters on December 25, 2023, is Mann’s first film since 2015’s “Blackhat.” This project has been a three-decade-long passion for him, based on Brock Yates’ 1991 Ferrari biography and brought to life through the script by the late Troy Kennedy Martin.

However, it’s not just the speed and the stunning red cars that drove Mann to make “Ferrari.” The film is set in 1957 Modena, Italy, and it captures the tumultuous period leading up to the Mille Miglia, a 1,000-mile cross-country race. Enzo Ferrari, portrayed by Driver, is grappling with both business troubles and a complex personal life, marked by passionate relationships with his wife, Laura (Penélope Cruz), and another woman, Linda Lardi (Shailene Woodley). It’s the intensity of these relationships and the powerful emotional forces behind them that compelled Mann to bring this story to the screen.

In “Ferrari,” death looms as a constant presence, from the grief of Enzo and Laura over their son’s passing to the peril faced by Enzo’s fleet of drivers on the treacherous racecourse. Mann observes that death is an ever-present theme, intertwined with the post-World War II context of Italy. Despite the shadows of mortality, Enzo Ferrari remains driven by the quest for what lies ahead.

Mann’s filmmaking philosophy aligns with his outlook on life. He believes that striving to exceed limits and push boundaries is an inherent human trait. Our history as a species is a testament to our constant drive to go further, discover the unknown, and break free from limitations.

While some might see Mann as a technical master of filmmaking, he is primarily concerned with the psychology of his characters. Driver even admits that a part of his portrayal of Enzo Ferrari in the film is influenced by Mann himself.

The bond between Mann and Driver extends to their shared self-critical intensity. Both men take full responsibility for their work and are driven by an unyielding determination to overcome challenges and setbacks. In Mann’s eyes, overcoming adversity and disappointment is essential for achieving success.

Mann’s commitment to his craft is evident in his ongoing projects, including the development of “Heat 2” as a potential film, with Driver possibly playing a young Neil McCauley. Mann’s unwavering focus and tenacity enable him to will his films into existence, even in the face of obstacles.

“Ferrari,” with a budget of $95 million, is a testament to Mann’s dedication to creating the films he envisions. It combines the thrill of racing with deep character exploration, challenging the conventions of a film industry often dominated by sequels and reboots.

As Mann enters his 80s, his creative energy shows no sign of waning. He thrives on exploring new frontiers in filmmaking, much like Vincent Hanna’s pursuit of the unknown in “Heat.” Mann’s enduring passion and relentless drive continue to define his remarkable career.

In conclusion, Michael Mann, at 80, remains a force to be reckoned with in the world of filmmaking, driven by his unyielding commitment to storytelling and his fascination with the human condition. “Ferrari” is a testament to his enduring passion, a film that combines the excitement of racing with the complexities of character and emotion. Mann’s legacy as a filmmaker who constantly pushes the boundaries of his craft is firmly intact, and his journey into uncharted territory continues to captivate audiences and inspire fellow artists.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Filmmaker

What is the main focus of Michael Mann’s film “Ferrari”?

Michael Mann’s film “Ferrari” primarily centers on the character-driven exploration of the life of Enzo Ferrari, set against the backdrop of the 1957 Modena, Italy, and the challenges he faces both in his business and personal life.

How does Michael Mann’s love for cars relate to the film “Ferrari”?

Michael Mann’s deep passion for automobiles, cultivated since his upbringing in Chicago, provides a significant thematic element in “Ferrari.” While the film does feature stunning cars and racing sequences, Mann’s fascination with cars goes beyond aesthetics, emphasizing the intense emotions and relationships of the characters.

What sets “Ferrari” apart from typical racing films?

“Ferrari” distinguishes itself from typical racing films by prioritizing character development and emotional depth over the sheer thrill of speed. It delves into the complex relationships of Enzo Ferrari and his personal struggles, offering a more profound narrative beyond the race track.

How does Michael Mann approach filmmaking, as mentioned in the text?

Michael Mann is known for his meticulous approach to filmmaking, emphasizing character psychology and emotion. He believes that technical aspects should serve to support and enhance the intangible elements of a story, making his films deeply immersive and resonant with audiences.

What insights into Michael Mann’s career and creative process can be gleaned from this text?

The text provides insights into Michael Mann’s enduring dedication to his craft, even in his 80s. It highlights his relentless pursuit of excellence, his unwavering focus, and his ability to overcome challenges in the filmmaking process. Mann’s creative energy and commitment to storytelling remain undiminished as he continues to explore new frontiers in his work.

More about Filmmaker

  • Michael Mann: IMDB profile of the filmmaker Michael Mann.
  • “Ferrari” Film: IMDB page for the film “Ferrari.”
  • Enzo Ferrari: Information about Enzo Ferrari, the real-life figure portrayed in the film.
  • Character-Driven Films: An article discussing the importance of character-driven storytelling in films.
  • Meticulous Filmmaking – An article on the meticulous approach to filmmaking often associated with Michael Mann.

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