Hollywood Actor David Bruhl Tells the Comical Tale Behind Portraying the Enigmatic Niki Lauda in F1 Film

Published 01/02/2022, 4:33 PM EST
Niki Lauda, Grand Prix of Italy, Monza, 12 September 1976. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)


With Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s rivalry for 2021 having had ended, many compared it to something beyond Hollywood. Although true, there was a rivalry that did make it onto the big screen- the iconic F1 rivalry shared by Niki Lauda and James Hunt. A sports drama to remember, actors Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth brilliantly capture the polarizing characters of Lauda and Hunt in the movie, ‘Rush’. However, it didn’t come easy.

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While portraying the spirited and charming Hunt would have come easy for Hemsworth, Lauda was an enigma; a serious man all about the sport. Thus, to truly do justice to the legend, Bruhl wished to get to know him better,

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In an old interview, the actor disclosed his time in Vienna with the triple world champion. The actor had insisted to meet Lauda; “even though he was so undiplomatic and I was quite frightened when I got his first call.” 

Bruhl chronicles, “It was six o’clock in the morning… I picked up the phone, and he said, ‘yes, I guess we have to meet now… just bring hand luggage to Vienna in case we don’t like each other, you can piss off right away.”

He later revealed that he brought a smile to the champion’s face, a clear indication that he had passed the test. As a result, he had to go shopping for clothes in Vienna!

Niki Lauda and James Hunt- defining F1 in the 7os

The truly was an incredible glimpse into the varying lives of Lauda and Hunt. Further, it moves the spotlight from the glamor of F1 to the dangers of sitting behind the wheel. In the age of ‘Drive to Survive,’ where every season gets its recognition, the 1976 championship was another ballgame- fitting for the silver screen.

The red-hatted-Austrian had once commented on this theatrical rivalry. Hunt won his sole title by a single point- after Lauda missed two races because of injuries from his infamous crash. Despite the circumstances, it was a feud that bloomed into respect.

Hunt won the championship having finished third on a rainy last race at the Fuji Speedway. Lauda protested racing in such bad conditions, and thus retired his car after 1 lap. Thus although he had the lead, the P3 was enough to give Hunt the point he needed.

After the race, the Brit had said“Quite honestly, I wanted to win the championship and I felt I deserved it. But I also felt Niki deserved to win the championship – and I just wish we could have shared it.”

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Remembering this, Lauda articulated, “it was the nicest comment I have ever heard. We had a respectful, nice relationship, going back to our days in Formula Three. We trusted each other.” Further, the movie got his seal of approval.“So that film, Rush, is good. It’s 80% correct, with a bit of Hollywood.”

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Lauda and Hunt had their era, and they had their rivalry. Looking at the year gone by, with a season that delivered on the action in every race, will there ever be a film for Verstappen and Hamilton? For a rivalry Hollywood wouldn’t possibly fathom, the story’s been served on a silver plate.

Watch this story: How Much Does an F1 Car Cost?

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Shreya Sanjeev

776 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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