The film Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story came to Archie Madekwe’s radar through a chance encounter.
“I met with one of the writers almost a year earlier [before he was cast]. He told me a story I had never heard before, and I was taken aback when I was sent the material – a couple of podcasts, interviews, YouTube videos,” shares Madekwe, who plays Jann Mardenborough, the real gamer-turned-professional racecar driver whose story the film is about. “I was really moved, because one thing that appeals to me as an actor is finding unknown, inspiring stories about people who look like me. When I was growing up, these stories – a young person achieving their dreams – were never told about a person whose face looked like mine. So I was unbelievably compelled to tell this story.”
The real Jann Mardenborough agrees. “I hope it shows kids that look like me that they can trust themselves and can go after what they love,” he says.
Like the character he plays, Madekwe had one hiccup when he began racing cars: he didn’t know how to drive. While working on another production, before Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story began shooting, he would shoot his scenes during the day, then sneak in a driving lesson in his evenings.
But learning to drive wasn’t his greatest challenge; he picked it up fairly easily. That was nothing compared to learning to fake drive: to be able to compete for real in the game “Gran Turismo.” “I had to actually be good at the game,” he says. “To shoot the scenes in the gaming café, we were playing the game for real against the difficult AI, and I had to win. That was daunting, because I’m aware of how much practice and skill goes into being good at games like that.”
To get good at the game, Madekwe was trained by David Perel, who – like Mardenborough – was a sim driver who now races for Ferrari. “PlayStation sent a simulator to my house – a seat, steering wheel, and pedals,” Madekwe recalls. “And as I wrapped the film I was on before, I just had to practice, practice, practice. It takes so much skill to learn the tracks, the racing lines, the corners, and feeling the brakes. And as soon as you get the hang of that, it’s just repetition, repetition. It gave me so much admiration and respect for those drivers, because for them to do that under the circumstances that they have to is insanity.”
And now that he’s had all of the training, does he think he has a future in racing? “With nothing but respect for every racecar driver on this planet… no,” he says. “I hate being in the car. It’s hot, it’s claustrophobic, it’s nauseating, it’s anxiety-inducing. I’m 6’5” – I can barely fit in the cars. And on top of that, you have to make split-second decisions in the middle of those circumstances. You can lose seven pounds of sweat during a race. It’s a total body experience, athleticism to the highest degree.”
Don’t miss this heartwarming underdog story. Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story opens in Philippine cinemas August 30.