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  • Writer's pictureAdéla Pavlovská

Apex: the upcoming F1 movie with Brad Pitt


After the major success of movies such as Rush or Ford V Ferrari, there is another motorsport-themed movie hitting the theatres in the near future. Here is all the tea we've got so far.
 

Apex is set to star the Academy Awards winner Brad Pitt in the leading role as retired racer Sonny Hayes, who returns on the F1 grid. Pitt himself is no stranger to the world of motorsport. He has narrated a MotoGP documentary Hitting the Apex, attended several Grand Prix races, and was the official starter of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. Together with Joseph Kosinski, they worked on a movie with the working title Go Like Hell. Pitt was supposed to play the British race car driver Ken Miles, and Tom Cruise the automobile designer Carroll Shelby. Sounds familiar? It should as the project saw the light of day under the name Ford V Ferrari (2019), directed by James Mangold, starring Christian Bale as Ken Miles, and Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby. We did a review of the movie here.


In April 2023, it was announced that the British-Nigerian actor Damson Idris will star alongside Pitt in the movie, playing his teammate Joshua Pearce. His character was probably inspired by Hamilton himself, who is producing the movie as well as helping with the script. Damson is known for the roles in Netflix's Outside the Wire and Farming, for which he won the best performance award at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Another confirmed actors to star in the movie are Irish actress Kerry Condon (best known for her role in The Banshees of Inisherin) who will play a Technical Director and English actor Tobias Menzies, who is most known for his role in The Crown. Javier Bardem will be the owner of a team, who is dead last and in a desperate need of salvation.

It seems that this time, Pitt and Kosinski (who directed Top Gun: Maverick) may be more successful with their ambition to make a movie about racing. The producer of the movie is Jerry Bruckheimer, and the screenwriter is Ehren Kruger. These three previously worked together on the sequel of the 1986 classic starring Tom Cruise as Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell.


What should make the movie stand out is the involvement of Lewis Hamilton as a producer and advisor via Dawn Apollo Films, a production company set up by Hamilton together with his manager, Penni Thow. His main focus is on the script and to make the project believable. "I don’t know absolutely every single plan with all the things we’ll be doing in the paddock, I'm more focused on making sure the script is where it needs to be," he said during the 2023 Miami GP, "I'm spending a lot of time right now helping Joe and the team get the script right, it’s an amazing process and I’m really enjoying it."


Hamilton is also working on a documentary about his career. Both projects are backed by Apple; we saw the CEO Tim Cook enthusiastically waving the chequered flag during the 2022 US GP. He wasn't the only one present in Austin. Pitt, Bruckheimer, Kosinski, and Kruger were also there. The film's key players shared their ideas with team principals and received positive reactions. This movie could significantly boost the F1 as a whole, the same way as Drive to Survive did, and attract new fans. Not to mention how beneficial the involvement of the teams would be for their brands.


"I'm incredibly excited about it," Lewis Hamilton said when asked about the project, "what we've been able to put together team-wise is pretty incredible. I have such high hopes for it. I know we're going to make the best racing movie that's ever existed, both visually, and we're going to work on making sure we pull on the heartstrings of all those fans." The filmmakers also stressed that they see their production similar to Top Gun: Maverick, which was a huge success. It was also one of the very rare moments when the sequel overshadowed the OG movie.


Stefano Domenicali, the F1 CEO, has revealed that the upcoming film will start shooting on race weekends in the second half of the 2023 season; the first being the British Grand Prix. The film production created an 11th team called ApexGP that have their garages installed in SIlverstone's pitlane.

If we take a closer look at Pitt's race suit, we'll see a Mercedes logo. This is not a coincidence as the German team developed a Formula 2 car Pitt is gonna drive. In post-production, it will be modified to look like an F1 machinery. Pitt has already tested the car at Paul Ricard, doing over 1000 km in it. He also won't be competing against professional drivers as some thought when the presence of the film crew was announced. The American actor is two decades older than Fernando Alonso, and doesn't have the physique nor the license to share the grid with Formula 1 drivers. Therefore the filming will undergo in-between sessions, where there are no other cars on track. There will be a small moveable 6K camera inside the cockpit to capture the footage. Filmed scenes of Brad Pitt on track will be combined with real footage from the 2023 F1 season.

The F1 boss also admits that the production of the movie brings some challenges during GPs. Liberty Media CEO, Greg Maffrei, points out how important this project is in terms of raising awareness, stating that they can't "rely on Driver to Survive as a long-term promotional tool".


"Drive to Survive is wonderful," Maffreir says, "but we cannot rely on Drive to Survive to be our only promotion vehicle forever. You’ve got to keep it fresh, change the game (...) as much as Drive to Survive is enormous to a lot of people around the world, I still go places and people say, 'Huh?' Its audience is not that big. It may be big among this group, but it's not that big."


What do we know about the plot? Apex will follow Sonny Hayes, the racing star of the 90's, who retired from Formula 1 because of a major injuries he suffered in a crash. He gets contacted by his friend, who owns an F1 team without points at the back of the grid. They have a young and talented driver Joshua Pearce, whose mentor Hayes is supposed to be. Therefore, Hayes returns on an F1 grid. In a way, we can call this movie a "F1 version of TopGun - Maverick"


Domenicali also said that all teams and drivers will be involved in the project as it will feature real cars as well as sponsors, "This is another step in the growth," he said, "We truly believe that it will enable F1 to be in another dimension that was not explored so deeply, and so well, until today." The movie will therefore serve as a great promo for the series.

The shooting has started in June and the film is expected to hit the cinemas on June 25, 2025. While waiting, here is a list of other motorsport-themed films to check out:

  • Rush (2013) - follows the iconic rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt

  • Ford V Ferrari (2019) - follows the fight between Ford and Ferrari during the 1966 24H Le Mans

  • Days of Thunder (1990) - the movie revolves around NASCAR and its environment

  • Le Mans (1971) - the classic by Steve McQueen

  • Grand Prix (1966) - the story of four drivers yearning for success in Formula 1

  • Bobby Deerfield (1977) - a movie based on Remarque's book Heaven Has No Favorites; it follows a story of a racing driver and a woman named Lilian, who is terminally ill.



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