Everything is receiving a TV or film adaptation these days, even motorsport. Why should virtual motorsport be any different? On Thursday morning news broke that Sony Pictures confirmed the development of a Gran Turismo show during the media giant’s latest earnings call. It was supposedly part of a slate of series based on PlayStation properties including God of War and Horizon, due for Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, respectively. The GT project had no platform attached to it, according to our friends at Kotaku.
Hours later Deadline barged in with a conflicting report that “those rumors [were] not accurate.” Rather, Sony is supposedly in the early stages of a Gran Turismo movie and chosen Neill Blomkamp of District 9 fame to direct it, per the entertainment industry news site citing anonymous sources.
Whatever screen this fabled GT project lands on, as an adaptation of a racing game there are so many ways it could play out. God of War and Horizon are action titles with fully-formed narrative universes; they practically write themselves. Gran Turismo is a game where you, the player, drive slow cars and win prize money to upgrade them and buy faster ones. There are no characters; there is no plot. How Sony could possibly envision adapting that for a viewing audience beats me. But then, hey — this is the production conglomerate that made The Emoji Movie. They’ll think of something, whether anyone asks them to or not.
None of this is to say that the Real Driving Simulator is a total stranger to Hollywood treatment. Longtime fans will recall the GT Academy TV series that ran from 2011 to 2014 on Spike. (Remember Spike?) GT Academy was a reality show of sorts that pit the world’s top players against each other in real cars for a spot in Nissan’s driver development program, where the winner would go on to participate in actual races around the world. If you need proof this is a thing that happened, you can still watch the entire first episode of the 2012 season courtesy of the official PlayStation YouTube channel.
Some GT Academy alumni, like Lucas Ordóñez and Jann Mardenborough, continued on with careers in sports car racing at the highest levels. Nissan even enlisted Ordóñez for one of its ill-fated LMP1 prototypes at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans.
That wasn’t all. In 2013 — a year before Need for Speed hit theaters — Sony announced a Gran Turismo feature film to be produced by Mike DeLuca and Dana Brunetti, who were working on Fifty Shades of Grey at the time. Joseph Kosinski was pegged to direct, while Jon and Erich Hoeber were hired as screenwriters, per GTPlanet. According to PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan, this movie was to tell the story of a gamer’s road to a real racing career. It never materialized, and it’s unclear what relationship, if any, Deadline’s rumored project might have with that earlier attempt.
Sony’s track record of cashing in on its PlayStation best-sellers with movies and TV has picked up in recent months. Since 2016's Ratchet & Clank and the recent Uncharted film, the company inked a deal with HBO to adapt The Last of Us into a series due next year, in addition to the trio of new projects announced this week. Twisted Metal has also been keyed for a Peacock series, 10 years since the last game in that franchise.
Perhaps Sony’s picked up on the fervor around Drive to Survive and aims to tell a fictionalized racing narrative in a similar tone under the GT brand. Perhaps it’ll morph its ongoing esports championship — previously backed by the FIA — into a docuseries of sorts. It’s impossible to predict where this will go, and even harder without knowing whether it’s intended for screens big or small. Whatever happens, it’s clear Sony remains convinced as ever that its driving sim boasts untapped storytelling potential.