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Flat Spot On: Movie Sequels – Can They Be Created Equal?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, December 9 2019
Pedro Rodriguez bursts into the lead in his Ferrari 275 P at the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1964.

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer 
RacinToday.com

Given that the inaugural two visits to Le Mans by the Ford GT 40s in 1964-65 were nothing short of disastrous, a prequel to “Ford vs. Ferrari” is probably not a good idea. I do have some suggestions for sequels. Mind you, I have practically no experience in Hollywood, other than visiting my brother, an attorney who lives in West Hollywood, and having a good cinematographer friend over near Burbank.

The other thing I will bear in mind is the possibly apocryphal advice of the late, great Bette Davis. When asked the quickest way for a young actor to get to Hollywood, she replied, “Take Fountain Avenue. There are fewer traffic lights.”

Having established my Hollywood credentials – and puh-leeze, let’s not quibble about the loyalty to facts in “Ford vs. Ferrari” – here’s my top five suggestions for sequels. I’m hesitant to suggest equals, because we all know how that goes when following a big hit. Nevertheless, I am in touch with my brother just in case I need to have his people available should any conversation lead to someone else’s people.

1. “Bullitt vs. Ferrari” – This time, the internal squabbling is between the city of San Francisco’s administration and the cops, not some schmoozer at Ford who happens to think an Englishman doesn’t belong on the American team. In the film’s highlight, top secret testing by cops of the next generation GT 40 on the streets of San Francisco leads to an incredible chase scene.

The Mafioso-type bad guys carry a sawed-off shotgun and drive a Ferrari. They try to take out the green, fastback version of the GT 40 disguised as a Mustang, which is driven by a character named Frank Bullitt. Those hapless Ferrari guys, you see, are trying to undermine Ford’s secret test program by wrecking the car. If some portion of this plot sounds familiar, remember it’s important in biopics to start with existing facts, then go from there. I think Christian Bale would make a great Frank Bullitt.

2. “Ford vs. Rendezvous” – An out of work race car driver who is, say, English, needs to get back into the race car driving game. He takes on a risky, winner-take-all assignment. Starting at daybreak, he is enlisted to drive non-stop across Paris at top speed in a car that shifts and sounds like it is powered by a Ferrari V-12. (Actually, the car, with a camera mounted on the front bumper, is a Mercedes two-seater with the sound of a Ferrari 275 dubbed over it.)

The driver never lifts no matter how many cars or red lights are encountered at intersections, or, if Bridget Bardot is encountered walking her poodle on narrow sidewalks during the driver’s evasive maneuvers onto said sidewalk. Once arriving at Montmatre, the mysterious driver encounters Carroll Shelby having a cup of coffee in front of the Sacré-Cœur basilica on the famous white steps in order to chase his nitroglycerin pills. The Englishman explains he’s down on his luck and Ol’ Shel decides to hire him on the spot, making sure to get him away from the Ferrari camp. They race, drink coffee, pop pills (well, Ol’ Shel does) and beat Ferrari again at Le Mans.

3. “Ford vs. Grand Prix” – OK, the Formula 1 cars haven’t run at Le Mans since I don’t know when, if ever. But nevertheless, the dastardly Enzo Ferrari arranges for his scarlet red open-wheel machines to be eligible to race in the Le Mans 24-hour, which creates some great cinematography options for low-level shots of wheels dancing in the corners, exposed engines being revved at full song and drivers sitting in open cockpits while peering out through their goggles. Despite this audacious change in rules arranged by the Machiavellian Ferrari, who doesn’t even have a helicopter at his disposal, the Fords still win – given that the Ferraris need to pit twice as often. Christian Bale plays James Garner playing Dan Gurney. 

4. “Ford vs. Talladega Nights” – This one cleverly moves the boardroom warfare into a major 500-mile race set on American soil, where one of the heroes is a Ford Torino converted into a special edition, long and big-bodied fastback called a Talladega. Ford take this dramatic machine and its 427-cubic-inch engine to a high-banked NASCAR track in Alabama in order to beat a gay Italian driver named Enzo, who has decided to show up with a Ferrari Daytona powered by a Ferrari V-12.

Enzo claims his car is legal to race since it’s licensed for the streets and they are, after all, going stock car racing. This driver (and I don’t think Christian Bale would be right for this role) is too young to be our man Ferrari. But just to be sure movie goers get the hint, we run the disclaimer about any relation to persons real or fictitious at the beginning and at the end of the movie. That will also help reinforce the notion that movie goers are getting the real thing. Ron Burgundy plays the driver of the winning Ford Talladega.

5. “Ford Mk. IV vs. Ferrari P4” – In this one, after A.J. Foyt is sweet-talked into co-driving with Dan Gurney at Le Mans in the 1967 race, the two fail to get along famously. Foyt throws a wrench at Gurney, which breaks their Mk. IV’s windshield, the team’s last one. The team has to tape up the glass for the final practice. (A mysterious guy from Owens-Corning comes to the rescue just before the race after purchasing two first-class tickets to France and carrying on a crate of new windshields as personal luggage.) In the race, three of the top Ford entries disappear on the same lap (Sacré Bleu!). Two additional Fords are collected by a crash started when the right front brake fails on Mario Andretti’s Mk. IV in the esses.

That leaves only the Foyt-Gurney car to beat the Ferrari P4 of Michael Parkes and Ludivico Scarfiotti. Gurney has to drive all night, because Foyt disappears, declining to drive in the dark, in part due to boredom with a five-lap lead. The American duo defeat the Ferrari strategy of trying to burn up the brakes on the Mk. IV; because of this possible weakness, the Ford drivers drop 25 seconds off their earlier lap times. The American duo wins. Gurney, annoyed by glad-handers trying to get free product exposure, shakes a bottle of champagne and sprays it, thus starting a tradition. In other words, just do a blow-by-blow story of the 1967 race (well, with one errant monkey wrench thrown into it) and call it a day. Ron Burgundy and Christian Bale play Gurney and Foyt.

I am copying this latter script idea from my English colleague Charles Bradley, but anticipate getting a screenplay into Hollywood before his people. Just in case, I’m taking Fountain.

(Editor’s note: Jonathan Ingram is a 43-year veteran of reporting on racing and the author of six books. CRASH! How the HANS Helped Save Racing, has just been released. For more information about Jonathan and his books, see www.jingrambooks.com.)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, December 9 2019
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