Take the Fast and Furious franchise's ongoing success and longevity, the current rush to make game-to-movie and -TV show adaptations, and everyone's affection for Stranger Things star David Harbour. Then, throw in the real-life story of a British teen who turned his love of PlayStation racing game Gran Turismo into an IRL racing career. The end result: a movie also called Gran Turismo, which will speed into cinemas this August — taking a Tetris-style approach, too, to bringing a button-mashing favourite to the screen.
"Do you really think you're going to take a kid who plays video games in their bedroom, [and] you're going to strap them to a 200-mile-an-hour rocket?" They're Harbour's words, sounding characteristically cranky and unsurprisingly incredulous, in his role as Jann Mardenborough's trainer. Indeed, much of Gran Turismo's just-dropped trailer features Harbour doing his best Hopper schtick while being none too happy about the concept behind GT Academy, which is how the real-life Mardenborough made the leap behind the wheel.
For newcomers to the story, and to anything beyond knowing Gran Turismo as a racing game, GT Academy did turn gamers into racers from 2008–16. Players competed through phases, including in real Nissan cars, with each year's winners scoring fast-tracked training to get an international racing license, and usually a competition slot in an international endurance race.
In 2011, Mardenborough was one such winner — the youngest, in fact. So, his path from racing virtually to actually hitting the track provides the framework for the Gran Turismo film to offer something more than just speeding cars. They're still a part of the flick, of course, because it wouldn't be a GT movie without them.
Alongside Harbour, Gran Turismo features Beau Is Afraid, Voyagers and Midsommar's Archie Madekwe as Mardenborough, plus Djimon Hounsou (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) as his father and Orlando Bloom (Carnival Row) as the marketing executive behind GT Academy. And, although it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-her situation in the trailer, Geri Horner — aka Spice Girl Geri Halliwell — plays Mardenborough's mother.
Behind the lens, director Neill Blomkamp adds the high-octane flick to his resume after District 9, Elysium and Chappie.
And if you're thinking about past instances of racing video games becoming movies, Need for Speed might've come to mind. Here's hoping that focusing on Mardenborough's story steers Gran Turismo to a better result.
Check out the trailer for Gran Turismo below:
Gran Turismo releases in cinemas Down Under on August 10.