MATT DAMON: As is so often the case in our industry, by waiting. I had the first script in hand ten years ago. I was really excited when the wonderful director and author James Mangold, who is known for “Walk the Line” among other things, got on board.
CHRISTIAN BALE: You definitely need patience. I had the script in my hands in 2011 – and I found it delightful to play someone like Ken Miles, who expresses the incredible emotion, enthusiasm and disappointment of our world.
Did you watch Steve McQueen’s Le Mans or films like Rush in preparation?
CHRISTIAN BALE: Steve McQueen made a big impression on me from a young age, my uncle gave me a couple of videotapes. Besides Rowan Atkinson and Gary Oldman, he was really important to me as an actor, even though it was always clear to me that nobody could be Steve McQueen except Steve McQueen. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be to even try that?
MATT DAMON: He was a real movie star.
CHRISTIAN BALE: Films like “Le Mans”, but also “Rush” have succeeded in getting people excited about motorsport who are otherwise not interested in it. If you want to find out more about racing, there are also really good documentaries, for example the BBC series “The Racing Collection”, which is about all types of racing: TT, Joey Dunlop, Dakar or rallying, where there is no safety Role played and drivers were traveling in ticking bombs.
MATT DAMON: Ha, that’s right! You literally went into bombs back then! Enzo Ferrari’s nickname was “The Assassin” because so many racing drivers lost their lives in his cars.
CHRISTIAN BALE: And on the Ford GT40, the gas tank was even built into the door. In addition, there were not even emergency doctors on the route, as that was too expensive for the operators. These were deadly conditions.
MATT DAMON: Who was that driver again who was famous for taping a wrench to the steering wheel so that he could free himself if necessary?
CHRISTIAN BALE: I think some did that later. Jackie Stewart too. His car had crashed into a wall and the steering wheel had trapped him in the cockpit while the gasoline spilled on top of him. He would have gone up in flames if other racing drivers had not stopped and carefully disassembled the car to free him, risking his life.
MATT DAMON: I thought they were nuns?
CHRISTIAN BALE: They came afterwards, the story is fantastic! They dragged him naked into a field where, like the baby Jesus in the straw, he had to wait for the ambulance for hours. But this incident changed consciousness. Until then, the track owners tried to accuse the drivers, who complained about the gross negligence, with a lack of masculinity. They were much more complex personalities than you might think. Miles was not a stoic macho, but a soulful man who stroked his car tenderly. It was about more than just fast metal.