Far from the SF films that made his career, Blomkamp adapts the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a gifted Gran Turismo player who became a professional racing driver thanks to the GT Academy competition. Last March, in Los Angeles, the director detailed the origins and ambitions of this crossroads blockbuster.
FIRST : When you were announced in command of Gran Turismoeveryone wondered what the director of District 9 came to do on this project…
NEILL BLOMKAMP: And I understand why! I had sold Sony a script for a very dark sci-fi film, in the vein of what I usually write. I worked on it while we were looking for the lead actor, but the process took a long time. So the folks at Sony asked me if I wanted to take a look at Gran Turismowhich would be greenlighted. ” What? But that makes no sense guys, it’s a driving simulation! It can’t make a movie. I was told to read the script anyway… I had never heard of the story of Jann Mardenborough or the GT Academy! But the script confused me a bit. I’m always on the hunt for video games that could be made into movies, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It is a true and human story.
Because it is not a stricto sensu video game adaptation.
No, and at the same time it’s a movie absolutely video game centered. It’s quite unique, all the more so for me: I’m used to making feature films a bit dark, a little twisted. And there, I found myself faced with something openly positive and inspiring. The story of an outsider who climbs the ladder one by one. I never imagined making a film like that! Except that this script reminded me of the movies I saw as a kid, and which left a strong impression on me. Maybe it’s that I’m getting old, huh. (Laughter.) But I wanted to try at least once in my career to reproduce this effect on young spectators. It’s the first time I’ve directed a feature film that I didn’t write, because I wanted to inject my point of view on something that doesn’t look like me.
And yet the link with your cinema is obvious. Your paw is there, especially in the very mechanical approach to racing.
So that’s reassuring. (Laughter.) I don’t want to compromise on the car scenes, which have to be as realistic as possible. Real tracks, real cars. Otherwise the human aspect of the story loses credibility and the film collapses. The actors are actually behind the wheel, even if it is pilots placed above the vehicle who are driving. But hey, of course, there are still a lot of digital effects.
Which are much more discreet than in your previous films.
Yes, but it’s an illusion: we still need visual effects on certain wide shots, if only to show the speed of the cars. If I really wanted to capture this pace with cameras, I would have had to launch the cars at 350 km/h. Impossible. So even with a realistic approach, we have 700 or 800 digitally reworked shots.
Is this film also a way to make peace with the studios after your ousting fromAlien 5 ?
I’m not that strategist. It is a pure creative encounter. I have no idea what will come next, I don’t know if I’ll do the sci-fi movie I wrote. I couldn’t care less about working with a big Hollywood studio…As far from me as the film was, it caught up with me. As if it was made for me.
Gran Turismo, from Neill Blomkamp, with David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe… Released August 9th.