Rush: Daniel Bruhl

RushPerhaps best known for his role as a German war hero in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Daniel Bruhl is about to become famous for his portrayal of Austrian driver, Niki Lauda, in Ron Howard’s ‘70s-set racing drama, Rush.

Growing up in Germany, it’s impossible not to know who Niki Lauda is: the story of the determined racer who overcame horrific burns suffered in a crash during the 1976 Formula 1 season to get behind the wheel again a mere six weeks later has attained the status of a national myth.

“I grew  up in Cologne in Western Germany near the racetrack where the accident happened,” actor Daniel Bruhl, who plays Lauda in the new film, Rush, explains. “So as  a kid I already knew who Niki Lauda was.  I was a bit of a Formula 1 fan myself as a kid, so I was very intrigued after reading the script, so I went to the audition and, fortunately, got the role.”

Still, getting the role was only half the battle; actually playing Lauda, and embodying both his prodigious driving skills and his prickly demeanour, was another matter entirely, and Bruhl admits to being more than a bit nervous about the prospect.

“At first, it was quite frightening because Niki is a legend,” says Bruhl. “He’s quite an icon in Germany. He’s so different to me – we don’t have anything in common, really, so I felt  a huge responsibility and weight on my shoulders and I thought, ‘Woof! How am I gonna play this guy?’ The preparation was quite intense; I learned to drive race cars – I spent over a month in Vienna to get that right, and then I spent a lot of time with him. I’m very thankful that he was willing to support me and help me with anything I need.”

Bruhl credits his time spent with the actual Lauda for much of the success of his performance, and says he took inspiration from Lauda’s post-accident attitude and determination. “The basic lesson for me was to be fearless; to overcome my fears. Also as an actor, because I think it was absolutely important in portraying Niki. He said to me that it was important not to give too much importance to what other people might think of you or say behind your back, otherwise he would never have survived the consequences of his accident.”

He also gives credit to screenwriter Peter Morgan, writer of The Last King Of Scotland and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, with giving the actual events their just due.

“I think Peter Morgan is one of the best screenwriters when it comes to stories based on real characters, because the journey of these two characters was already in the script and I like the fact that both of these guys are likable at the end – you would have empathy for both of them. It’s not a conventional film where you would have a hero and a villain. When we started shooting the film I was doubting if people would like me or my character at the end, but Peter Morgan always told me that people would understand his attitude and will also find him quite funny – and that’s  true, actually.

“After spending time with Niki, I can say that he actually can be very charming and very, very funny.”

_ TRAVIS JOHNSON

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