Anyone familiar with the video game series may see the Gran Turismo trailers and assume that the movie is based on them. And while it is, there’s another story, this one real, that the movie is also based on. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Gran Turismo stars Orlando Bloom, David Harbour, and rising star Archie Madekwe. Bloom plays a Nissan executive who has the wild idea to train video game players to be real racers, and David Harbour stars as the man reluctantly recruited to be their trainer. Meanwhile, Madekwe is one of the lucky recruits who shows potential.
It’s a wild tale. What motorsport company in their collective right mind would recruit out-of-shape video players? But Gran Turismo is, in fact, based on fact–mostly. Here’s the true story behind the fiction.
Gran Turismo Tells The True Story Of Jann Mardenborough
Archie Madekwe’s Jann Mardenborough is a real kid who got to live the dream. Mardenborough’s story is a rather remarkable one. Until he was the ripe old age (for becoming a pro athlete, that is) of 19, Mardenborough had never once considered being a professional race car driver. Not seriously, anyway–certainly not beyond the fleeting boyhood aspirations of “That would be so cool!” or pretending he was a driver when he played Gran Turismo.
But in 2011, that changed. Mardenborough joined the GT Academy through Nissan and beat out a whopping 90,000 other competitors to win the top prize, going on to race with Nissan at the Dubai 24 Hour endurance race. He went on to become a professional GT racer for Nissan, acquitting himself well on the track and even winning a race early in his career. A few years later, he decided to make the switch to formula racing, feeling it suited his style far better. Though he was considered a rookie in the formula racing scene in 2013, he placed well and continued to impress, even competing in the grueling Le Mans race in that same year.
Gran Turismo Shows The Darkest Moment Of Mardenborough’s Career
Even though Jann Mardenborough has lived a seeming fairytale life, his time racing hasn’t always been pleasant. Racing is an incredibly dangerous sport. Every time drivers step behind the wheel, they are quite literally taking their lives into their hands, as well as trusting the drivers around them to make no fatal mistakes. It’s for this very reason the real Mardenborough insisted that the Gran Turismo movie include the darkest and scariest moment of his career: his 2015 crash at Nürburgring Nordschleife. The Nordschleife (North Loop) track is so challenging that drivers once gave it the nickname of “The Green Hell.”
On March 28, 2015, that hell caught up with Mardenborough when his car accidentally went airborne in the Flugplatz section of the track and cartwheeled through the air, crashing into spectators and killing a person. While the movie fudges the timeline of events in order to craft a stronger fall-and-rise narrative, it does not change the fact that it was the lowest moment of Mardenborough’s racing career, if not his life. It’s to Gran Turismo‘s credit that it didn’t hold back from depicting that moment, and to Mardenborough’s credit that he didn’t walk away from the sport. Though the movie may take some liberties with timing and backstory, Gran Turismo is as true as it gets.