Any time Hollywood gets its hand on a good idea for a movie, there’s a pretty good chance that you can count on some details being dramatized and falsified in order to keep with the whole movie appeal thing. But how important is that accuracy to you when it comes to racing movies?
I ask because it appears that the new Ford v. Ferrari film has some pretty egregious historical slip-ups. Such as using Auto Club Speedway as the set for Daytona... and leaving the very modern SAFER barriers in place. And there are rumors that Road Atlanta is used as the set for Le Mans.
It’s been a pretty chronic problem in most relatively recent racing films. Darlington magically becomes a tri-oval speedway with infield grass in Days on Thunder. Rush was great, but it left out the true nature of the Hunt v. Lauda story (they were friends and former roommates) and also some of the more important plot points that made Hunt’s ultimate championship victory so unbelievable (getting points revoked at the British GP, for example).
Most of the time, the details that get changed and left out are pretty minor. At the end of the day, does it really matter if a scene at Watkins Glen is actually filmed at an entirely different location? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
I’ll be honest: when I first watch racing films, I’m pretty inclined to give ‘em the benefit of the doubt. As long as the cinematography is good, the storyline is compelling, and nothing too obviously sticks out as being too completely incorrect, then I generally don’t pick it over too harshly. Not until I get a copy of the movie to watch at home.
But when I notice, it does kind of bother me. I’m a stickler for historical detail. My undergraduate thesis for my creative writing program was a racing novella featuring entirely fictionalized characters, but I still researched the hell out of weather conditions, track temperatures, and ongoing manufacturer conflicts to make sure things were as accurate as possible.
It’s doubly important being a woman and knowing I’m more apt to receive criticism for not having a minor detail completely correct. And it’s doubly frustrating to see a highly anticipated film featuring A-list actors include a blatantly period-incorrect SAFER barrier knowing that the people in charge of that decision likely won’t be on the receiving end of gendered invectives that question their authority at, like, everything. That said, Ford v. Ferrari still looks like a damn good movie, and I will 100 percent be seeing it—flaws and all.
All this to say that accuracy does actually mean something for me. But is it the same for everyone? I need to know!