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Historical Accuracy: Design and Locations
With a global television audience of more than a half billion, Formula 1 is the highest class of single- seater auto racing in the world. Sanctioned by FIA, the "formula" refers to the set of rules with which all participants' cars must comply. Under the leadership of director Bernie Ecclestone, who turned F1 into a billion dollar business, the 1970s saw even greater commercial success for the enterprise.

The F1 championship season consists of a series of races known as the Grand Prix that are held on purpose- built circuits and public roads. The results of each race are combined with a points system to determine the annual World Championships, one for the drivers and one for the car manufacturers.

Although it began in Europe, F1's popularity has transcended continental boundaries, with races now also held in the Americas, Asia and Oceania. No surprises here, but a period film about an international sport required top talent, dedication, extensive research, long hours and hard work. To accomplish the myriad tasks ahead, the filmmakers recruited a talented and dedicated crew who were inspired by the work ethic of their director. "It was arduous, unbelievably demanding on everyone but we're thrilled with what we got and how much of the flavor of Formula 1 we were able to capture," Howard says. "We also captured a lot of the prerace moments, life in the paddock, the culture of Formula 1. And I believe we've re-created this period in a way that captures the glamour, the daring and the excitement of a very colorful time."

With the deft hand he brought to the ambitious Slumdog Millionaire, production designer Mark Digby knew he had an incredibly challenging shoot ahead of him with Rush. By integrating all racing and support vehicles into historically accurate environments, he had the Herculean challenge of reimagining racetracks from Europe to Japan. "We had to create 12 to 15 different races each year from 1974 through 1976," says Digby. "In addition to the racecars, there were lorries and caravans, ambulances and other support vehicles. There was the paddock area at each of the tracks where the mechanics work and bunting and signage to indicate we're in a different country at a different Grand Prix...since we didn't travel all around the world to do our filming."

Adding to the authenticity was location filming at the British tracks Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Cadwell Park and Snetterton and at Germany's notorious Nurburgring. Filming was also done at Blackbushe Airfield, a former drag racing venue in the U.K. The most emotional part of the production for the crew was filming at Nurburgring, the site of Lauda's horrifying crash. "We went to the actual spot where the incident occurred," Howard says. "The first time I went there to scout, it was chilling. It was almost like entering a church, knowing Niki and what he went through and that we were going to re-enact it and re-create it. On the days of shooting, the adrenaline was pumping so we were not thinking so much philosophically. We were a little more practical, but everybody innately understood that there was something extraordinary about the opportunity to film there and the responsibility that involved."

The director is most grateful for the chance to film in some extraordinary places during his long career. He reflects: "I've been lucky to film remarkable reefs in the Caribbean for underwater scenes in Splash and Cocoon, the Louvre for The Da Vinci Code, sacred places for Angels & Demons, weightless simulation facilities at NASA for Apollo 13 and Nixon's Western White House for Frost/Nixon. Nurburgring was another one of those experiences like the Louvre, like NASA, where you are frankly just thankful that you are doing a job that allows you these experiences. It was a huge thrill and, most important of all, we got a great scene shooting there."

In addition to the emotional impact, Howard took away from the shoot a better understanding of the expertise needed to negotiate one of the world's most challenging racecourses. "I'm a neophyte, but I could tell the skill level required to excel at a place like this as we moved through that undulating, twisting track at Nurburgring," Howard says. "It was like standing on a great golf course. You don't have to participate in the sport to sense there's something unique, specific and remarkable about a place."

Howard is not a complete novice when it comes to films about fast cars. He starred in a pair of low-budget car-chase comedies in the mid-'70s, Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto, writing and making his directorial debut in the latter. The director also got a firsthand look at another famous racetrack. Shortly after filming wrapped, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway invited him to drive the pace car for the Brickyard 400, a NASCAR race held annually at the legendary track. NASCAR star Jeff Gordon hosted Howard during his first visit to Indy and introduced him in a prerace drivers' meeting. Rush proved to be a labor of love for Howard. In returning to an era he knew well in the milieu of a sport with which he was unfamiliar, he found endless overcomes. Still, he gives that this was one of his easiest films. "The obstacles presented in making Rush were considerable," the director sums. "The weather, re-creating the '70s, replicating historical races: challenges were big and plentiful. But from a casting standpoint, this was one of the easiest films I've ever done. Everything came together."

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