- christian bale stars with matt damon in ford v. ferrari, based on the true story of how the ford motor company beat ferrari in 1966 in the 24 hours of le mans, a race the italian firm had dominated for years.
- bale plays legendary driver ken miles, known for both his driving skill and his prickly personality. he drove for racer-entrepreneur carroll shelby, played by damon.
- bale attended the bondurant school of high performance driving, where he learned the sights, sounds, and feel of racing by going through a week-long course. the movie opens on november 15.
actor christian bale is known for his ability to inhabit characters so thoroughly, he seems to become them. he does that once again in the upcoming movie ford v. ferrari, playing race driver extraordinaire ken miles—and we know one of his secrets for creating such a convincing performance: he went to race-driving school.
stunt coordinator robert nagle, the man responsible for choreographing, staging, and shooting the movie's ultrarealistic racing footage—no cgi special effects were employed—brought bale to the well-respected bondurant high performance driving school. "i took christian for two reasons," explains nagle. "first, i wanted him to understand what a race car driver is, mentally and physically." nagle, who has raced extensively, also wanted bale to meet school founder bob bondurant "because bob is from that era."
bondurant, now 86, drove carroll shelby's streamlined cobra daytona coupe to the gt class win in the 1964 24 hours of le mans and to the 1965 fia manufacturers' world gt championship in 1965. "what i didn't know," says nagle, "is that bob and ken miles were very close friends. my hope was that christian would meet bob and talk with him for a couple of hours."
what bale got was a weeklong history lesson in 1960s-era sports-car racing. bondurant, who has taught road-racing techniques to numerous actors and professional race drivers, had plenty to say about that golden age of international competition and about racing for carroll shelby. during that week with bale, "we'd wrap up the track instruction every day around 2:00 p.m.," says nagle. "it was summer in phoenix and blazing hot. and i kid you not, we spent the next four or five hours of every day talking with bob. it was amazing."
bale invested himself in the race-driving course with the same intensity he uses to immerse himself in his on-screen characters, reports nagle. "christian listened to what the instructors and i were saying and applied it. he would push himself incrementally each time out, but not in big steps. but he always challenged himself a little more each time.
"we finished the last day in the formula mazdas," nagle goes on, referring to the school's winged, open-wheel, 180-hp race cars. nagle shadowed bale around the bondurant school's challenging road-racing circuit in a similar car and discovered that the actor turned race driver was cool under pressure. "i would hound christian, and he didn't bobble once. when i pressure people like that i can usually see when they stop driving their car and start watching me in their mirrors. but he never bobbled and never went off. i have to say that he's hands down the best actor i've ever trained."
ford v. ferrari, the epic tale of how ford motor company, a fast-talking texan, and a cantankerous british racing driver challenged ferrari's dominance of the 24 hours of le mans and won, will be released in theaters on november 15.