David Harbour always knew that director Neill Blomkamp (Elysium, District 9) would bring a genuinely exhilarating feel to Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story. But he didn’t realize how authentic his own experience would be while filming the movie.
“I knew Neill would bring a visceral, blood pumping feel to the movie,” says David Harbour, who plays Jack, a washed-up driver who becomes Jann Mardenborough’s chief engineer and teaches him the ins and outs of a real racecar. “What I didn’t really know was how much we were going to be working with actual cars, actual drivers, actual tracks. We’re in the cars, we’re doing pit tire changes and gassing up the cars in real-time with other drivers blazing around the track at 200mph. It’s really me in a helicopter flying 30 feet above racecars. It all plays into the intensity of the experience – which is critical to making a film about people having a very intense experience, risking everything for what they love.”
The actor says that at first, he was skeptical about a movie adaptation of a racing simulator, because for him a movie is not like a videogame. “You want to play the game, to control the characters,” Harbour says. “One of the things I really liked about this movie is that it’s not a movie about a videogame – it’s a movie that incorporates a videogame into its narrative, which is about a young man with tremendous talent who does something incredible, and about a coach who has been through a lot and become hardened – but who comes to believe in this kid.”
Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story tells the story of videogamer-turned-racecar driver Jann Mardenborough (played by Archie Madekwe). It’s the ultimate wish fulfillment tale of a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills won a series of Nissan competitions to become an actual professional racecar driver.
One of the reasons Harbour was attracted to the movie was in seeing Mardenborough’s underdog story reflected throughout the characters. “Jack’s story is an underdog story as well,” he says of his character. “He’s suffered, but he still clearly loves this sport and doesn’t have the opportunity to participate in it at the level that he would like to.” And though he starts out cynical, Harbour says, Jack starts to see GT Academy as his chance. “He doesn’t believe in these kids, initially, but he starts to realize he has a real opportunity to teach Jann.”
Harbour’s respect for the thrilling style of the movie mirrors his character’s understanding of the cars’ power. “On the surface, the dynamic is fraught and tense,” he says. “These kids are coming out of the game world, and he doesn’t believe in them. He’s a man of a different time, a man of mechanics, of machines, of things that work a certain way, and the world is moving on. And he desperately wants them to understand the power of his world – the visceral, the real – that coming out of the screens into this physical world has value.”
Watch the inspiring true story of videogamer-turned-racecar driver Jann Mardenborough in Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story, opening in Philippine cinemas August 30.