5 Errors in the movie Rush (2013)

RushRon Howard’s movie Rush about the tumultuous 1976 Formula One season which was the culmination of a furious rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda was my favourite movie from last year. As always with movies based on historical events, the movie had to streamline and dramatize things in order to get the message through more clearly for the audience.

Once again, just as with my 10 Historical Errors from BraveHeart blog, I decided to list the five more glaring oversights and errors from this film. Once again, the point is not to bash the film but rather make people more aware of the oversights and simplifications this movie makes to enjoy it better. Movies are not documentaries and they don’t need to be. If nothing else, just consider this a bit of fun…

Please note: This blog contains Spoilers!!

Hunt vs Lauda F31. Lauda and Hunt never raced each other in Formula 3

One of the early establishing scenes in the movie pits Hunt against Lauda in an F3 race long before either of them would race in Formula One. Amazingly, the facts that Hunt would not only throw up, gargle champagne but also smoke a blunt before a race are in fact all accurate. However, Hunt and Lauda’s clash on a British F3 circuit is not.

This oversight is easy to understand for those who don’t know how lower divisions of Formula Ones work. Formula 3s (now called GP3) are a nationally raced lesser league. While it’s not impossible that Lauda could have raced in a British F3 race, he would have probably been more likely to participate in the continental F3 series (Lauda in fact raced in many other leagues before his F1 break, which is greatly brushed aside by the movie).

On the other hand, this fabricated scene which contains a fictional first encounter between Lauda and Hunt is rather understandable. It’s there to set the stage for the two drivers’ rivalry.

BRM start2. Lauda drove in F1s before buying his way into BRM

While it’s true that in Formula Ones it used to be possible to just buy your way into the sport with enough money, the movie makes it seem that the engine wiz kid Lauda started off with a bang by confounding his BRM employers who needed his money. In actuality, Lauda’s F1 debut happened already in 1971, two years before he joined BRM.

Again, it’s understandable why director Ron Howard chose to ignore Lauda’s less than spectacular rookie seasons. Lauda started his career racing at March Engineering, but Lauda achieved no points and the team was in massive financial problems by the end of the season. A darker chapter in Lauda’s life is also ignored by the film was that Lauda briefly considered suicide, having amassed lots of debt from his failed F1 debut.

Lauda indeed finally struck out with BRM and with his association with Clay Regazzoni which opened his way to Ferrari.

Hunt Lauda friends3. Hunt and Lauda were friends

Probably the biggest oversight from the film is that James Hunt and Niki Lauda were actually friends off-track. Though the competition between the two drivers would get quite nasty and almost unsportsmanlike, it’s widely documented that both drivers had great respect for each other’s skill.

Again though, it’s easy to understand why Ron Howard chose to depict Hunt and Lauda’s relationship as more passive-aggressive and mean (at least before Lauda’s accident) as it heightens the tension of the film. It’s because of scenes like this why it’s sometimes healthy to remember that films will dramatise reality greatly.

Not only was Lauda good friends with Hunt, the two actually shared an apartment for a short time. Lauda would also frequent the McLaren garage where Hunt worked and got along well with the British mechanics, more so than his Italian pit-crew at Ferrari (since the Austrian’s English was much better than his Italian).

Hunt beats reporter4. James Hunt never beat up a reporter

While James Hunt was not above physical violence (he once bashed a track marshal in the aftermath of a race crash) and was also quite hot-headed, the film again portrays a fictional incident, probably to prove Hunt’s changed attitude towards Lauda after his accident. In the film, Lauda is shown giving a press conference while returning to racing after his disfiguring accident. A particularly slimy reporter drills him about how his changed appearance has affected his marriage and Lauda storms off angrily.

In the following scene, Hunt pulls the reporter off to the side and punches him repeated and even shoves his tape-recorder in his mouth. It’s a very powerful scene, perhaps commenting on the quality of sports journalism. This, however, is an entirely fictional scene as Hunt didn’t abuse any reporters following Lauda’s press conference. The details of said conference are a little hard to get a hold of either.

It’s true though that Lauda has walked away from reporters before. Most recently, a slightly misinformed reporter annoyed Lauda enough to cause a walkout when he asked his opinion on the success of the “Australian Cricket Team”, to which Lauda only replied with: “I’m Austrian”.

Bologna meeting5. The Baloney Meeting

Probably not a surprise, but the final meeting between Lauda and Hunt in the film – where the two finally shake hands and seemingly put their differences behind them was also faked. Much like the F3 scene in the film’s start, this scene was probably added just to add a closing chapter to the film. One of the problems about making films based on reality is that reality is not a motion picture with a well-defined beginning and end.

The scene previous does accurately reference Hunt’s success following his championship and, indeed, Lauda was noted as a pilot as well as a racer. However, this scene is just some more cinematic fancy to give the movie a nice, neat finale before Lauda’s ending monologue.