By Tyler Griffin, The Canadian Press on December 22, 2023.
TORONTO – Michael Mann may be known for his films showcasing the entrapments of masculinity, but between the roaring engines and bespoke Italian suits in his latest biopic “Ferrari,” it’s the strong and fascinating female characters that round out the Hollywood auteur’s work, Canadian screen star Sarah Gadon says.
“Ferrari” stars Adam Driver aged up two decades to play the titular, mythic role of Enzo Ferrari during a turbulent few months in the Italian automaker’s life, when his private and professional lives threatened to careen out of control. Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley and Patrick Dempsey star in supporting roles, and Toronto-born Gadon has a small but emotionally critical role as Hollywood actress Linda Christian, the love interest of one of Ferrari’s race car drivers.
“It’s a small role, it’s not one of the lead roles, but the amount of detail [Mann] put toward what her function was in the story and the research behind it, it just became very rich,” says the “Alias Grace” and “Cosmopolis” actress.
“He cares so much about every little thing happening in the frame. He is driving everybody towards perfection and if that means we’re going to do 50 takes of something, we do 50 takes. If we’re only doing four, we’re only doing four. You just get a sense that he’s watching everything like a hawk, but he’s also very fun and playful.”
“Ferrari” is a passion project decades in the making for the 80-year-old director, who has churned out fan-obsessed works such as 1995’s “Heat” and 2006’s “Miami Vice,” and marks his grand return to theatres eight years after the release of his box-office flop “Blackhat.”
Shot on location, its lavish set pieces immerse viewers in a snapshot of Modena, Italy in 1957, when Enzo Ferrari’s company is facing immense financial pressure years after its rise from the ashes of the Second World War.
Simultaneously, Enzo’s mistress Lina wants him to publicly recognize their 12-year-old son Piero by bestowing on him the iconic Ferrari surname, making him an official heir. His unknowing wife and icy business partner Laura – embodied by an electric performance from Cruz – inches closer to the truth, already haunted by the death of her and Enzo’s adult son from muscular dystrophy.
To add to his troubles, Enzo needs a new driver to participate in the upcoming Mille Miglia, a 1,000-mile, open-road race throughout Italy, in which the Ferrari brand seemingly needs a first-place finish to secure its future while in hot pursuit by competitor Maserati. In comes Alfonso de Portago, played by Gabriel Leone, followed closely by Gadon, cast as his girlfriend Linda.
“What is very fun about playing a character like that is it’s not so much what’s going on in the overt dialogue, it’s everything that’s happening between the lines, all the subtext,” says Gadon. In one scene, while posing for photographers in front of a new Ferrari model ahead of the Mille Miglia, Enzo forcibly moves Linda to the side to showcase the car’s prancing horse emblem.
“The threat that she poses to Enzo just by her very presence and popularity and all that is very subtle, but it’s happening and it kind of rounds out the film,” says Gadon.
While the film’s quieter moments of interpersonal conflict add depth for moviegoers looking for drama as opposed to car chases, the racing scenes stand out as the more thrilling aspects of the movie’s genre-balancing act.
Mann uses his technical prowess to regularly remind the audience of the vehicles’ terrifying power, and a sense of impending destruction hangs over much of the film. In a pronounced Italian accent, Enzo tells his drivers inone scene that racing is their “deadly passion; our terrible joy.”
“Ferrari” hits theatres on Christmas Day.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2023.
– With files from The Associated Press.