Michael Mann’s Enzo Ferrari Biopic Might Have a Michael Mann Problem

Michael Mann’s biopic of the revered founder of the exclusive car company Ferrari has shifted into a higher gear as Noomi Rapace has begun talks to join the films cast and Paramount Pictures has picked up the distribution rights, according to THR. The film, based on the book “Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races” by Brock Yates, will chronicle Enzo Ferrari’s rise to fame and success as well as detail many of the seedier sides of his reputable career.

Christian Bale signed on to play the eponymous Italian carmaker this past August, and if talks are successful, Rapace will likely star opposite of him as Ferrari’s wife Laura Dominica. While no projected release date has been established, the film is set to begin shooting in Italy summer of 2016 with a budget of $80m. However, despite Mann ticking the first big boxes of the project’s necessities, the question remains of whether the movie will actually make it out of the pit and onto the road. Mann’s idea for the Ferrari biopic has been gestating for 15 years, and while that is isn’t particularly unusual, it carries negative connotations because of the director himself.

His last film, this past January’s hacker-thriller Blackhat, had been an idea for six years until it was finally released, upon which it was critically polarizing and a box office flop. After the smoke cleared, there were rumblings that the film’s failure was more in part to Mann himself than anything else. Deadline reported that industry insiders pointed to Mann’s hands-on approach to just about all aspects of the production as being the most damning factor, from the poor execution of shooting digitally to the decisions in the marketing process.

Marketing, in fact, was arguably the biggest misstep in Blackhat’s success, with Mann reportedly making most of those decisions with some input from Universal and Legendary. Despite an $80m budget and Chris Hemsworth as the lead, the subject matter of hacking is inherently, to most, not very sexy, appealing, or thrilling, therefore hard to market. And Mann struggled to find an innovative approach. There was little to no marketing for the film during the final crucial weeks leading up to its debut, and according to Deadline, when the film was finally released there was only 61% awareness of it.

His hands-on approach had even carried over into the film’s score as well. The widely-publicized disappointment of composer Harry Gregson-Williams after realizing most of the music he scored for Blackhat did not get used echoed similar sentiments from others who’ve been subjected to Mann’s production tendencies. Elliot Goldenthal, who scored Mann’s 1995 film Heat and 2009’s Public Enemies stated, “Michael has a propensity to change his mind the whole time. For some people it can be very frustrating. You think you’ve accomplished something, but you never know. It’s Kafkaesque.” Another composer, speaking on anonymity, said “…I would have dinner with him any night of the week. I just wouldn’t work for him again.”

The director’s habits have also extended beyond film. Mann and producer-writer David Milch became entangled in an infamous power struggle and clashing-of-egos during production of HBO’s 2011 series Luck. The show, however, was not a passion project for Mann and neither was Blackhat. His Ferrari biopic, though, just may be…and that could potentially spell big trouble. The director has had the desire to bring the auto-mogul’s life to screen for 15 years, surely becoming very attached and intimate with the idea. If Mann’s notorious habits manifest themselves on projects he’s only mildly affectionate for, it’s anyone’s guess as to how they could manifest on a production he’s been fixated with for over a decade.

His personality, combined with an overseas production (which usually means a lengthier shoot and more bumps in the road), a lead actor who can be equally as difficult to work with, and rumors of Mann using film stock…and the movie about the brain behind some of the world’s fastest cars could at some point find itself stalling out more than running.