Will Michael Mann succeed where David Cronenberg and so many others have merely crashed and burned previously?
We'll find out if he manages to cross the finish line (I'll stop now, I swear) with “Enzo Ferrari,” a film that Michael Mann has been trying to make for almost twenty years now. There was a point where David Cronenberg spent several years trying to make a film called “Red Cars,” which would have dealt with the life of Enzo Ferrari dung the 1961 racing season, and it was primarily meant to be told from the perspective of Phil Hill, a driver working for the millionaire and struggling to hold up against the demands of winning a championship.
Cronenberg eventually found himself at odds with the Ferrari family, with threats of legal action, and he took all of that research and energy and put it into a book that published some remarkable rare images from the actual Ferrari archives. It's a great curio, but I'm sure it's merely a consolation prize for Cronenberg, and I wish we had his film instead.
Mann is one of those guys who I believe always has gas in the tank (damn it, I did it again) even if I didn't care for this last movie, and I reeeeeeeeeeally didn't care for his last movie. The Ferrari story is one of those that filmmakers come back to again and again, and it's proven really difficult to actually get made. Carlo Carlei made a 2003 TV movie about Enzo's life that remains little seen outside of Italy. Brock Yates got everyone crazy with his 1991 book “Enzo Ferrari: The Man, The Cars, The Races,” and Mann's film is directly based on the book. Part of the attraction is that Enzo Ferrari was a mogul from the oldest of old schools, and Hollywood was built by those same types of people, moguls cut from the same cloth. Jim Gianopulos, Fox Filmed Entertainment's chairman and CEO, is a car nut who actually competed in a 1000-mile Italian race with Daniel Day-Lewis as his co-driver, and he's long been interested in finding the right take on Ferrari's story. Robert De Niro, who was attached to play Enzo for Cronenberg at one point, is developing his own take on the material that would cover much more of Ferrari's life than Mann's movie, which focuses on a very specific moment in 1957. It seems like Mann is the guy to beat (it's not my fault) at this point, since he's not only got his financing, he's also got Christian Bale set to star and Paramount set to distribute in the US.
According to Deadline, much of the development Mann did on the film was done with Sydney Pollack involved, and reading that only made me want to see this more. I miss Pollack, and I think he was a smart producer. Knowing how much passion Mann brings to the project, I'm excited. I'd love to see him really connect with a piece of material again. When he does, there are few filmmakers I like more.