An officially sanctioned Formula 1 movie is set to hit the cinema screens early next year after a deal was reached with the sport's commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone. Preparations are now well under way for the film, which will be an "action documentary" charting the history of the sport but focusing especially on the period between 1968 and 1982.
The film is being produced by Hollywood-based Michael Shevloff, and is being worked on by the partnership of Oscar winners Mark Monroe (writer) and Paul Crowder (director). With the full support of Ecclestone, it is hoped production for the film will be completed this year with a release date scheduled for early in 2011.
Monroe, who won an Oscar with Crowder last week for his recent documentary film The Cove, said the plan was for the F1 movie to appeal to both casual fans and the hardcore enthusiast as it charted the sport's history and growth.
"My partners and I really believe that documentaries can be entertaining and engaging – not just reporting facts," he told AUTOSPORT during a visit to the Bahrain Grand Prix. "We want to make a big action movie – do something that puts people in the car and makes them gasp at the speed of the thing. Then, tell the human stories all the while, so you can dip in and out of these human stories with these big action moments that are enhanced from archive footage.
"We will do it with music, flare and energy – and get people excited about it. It is a pretty tall task as we have to hit the right tone so the proper fans don't think it is rubbish, but also make it broad enough so that someone who doesn't know anything about the sport can really enjoy it. That is the task and it is a tough one – but it can be done and that is what we have set out to do."
Although previous plans for F1-based movies have fallen through, with Sylvester Stallone abandoning his own efforts and making the widely lambasted Driven based on CART Champ Car racing instead, Shevloff believes that by having a documentary approach, rather than creating fiction, the idea had every chance of being successful.
"It is a tough order to make a dramatic film about a dramatic sport," he explained. "To make a film and say we will spend 100 million dollars or 200 million dollars on this movie – well, Bernie would just reply and say the teams spend a billion dollars on the sport. So I don't know how you would make it bigger than it is. It is bigger in real life than you could ever make in a film, so a documentary is a much better form for this. The real thing is so huge that if you put it in a movie, the whole thing would seem contrived."
The film does not yet have an official name – but it has been decided the main focus will be on the period between Jim Clark's death at Hockenheim in 1968 and Gilles Villeneuve's fatal accident at Zolder in 1982.
"We don't have a title. We are still looking at titles – and it is the last thing on our plate at the moment," added Shevloff. "We have had various working titles, from "The Greatest Show on Earth" to "The Untitled F1 Doc." We need to find something that is a film rather than a documentary title – we are intent on making people see it as a film."