Is Gran Turismo Based on a True Story?

‘Gran Turismo’ is a coming-of-age sports drama film that revolves around Jann Mardenborough, an avid player of the Sony PlayStation’s racing simulator game, ‘Gran Turismo.’ When Jann is given a chance to participate in an international competition with other ‘Gran Turismo’ players at the GT Academy, he immediately accepts. With the lucrative prize of completely paid real-life race car driving training provided by Nissan for one year on the line, would Jann be able to triumph and more?

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, the film stars Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Darren Barnet, Djimon Hounsou, and Geri Halliwell. An inspiring tale of more than just fierce competition, ‘Gran Turismo’ will surely keep the viewers occupied with its too-close-for-comfort racing sequences and pumped for what comes next on-screen. But did a competition like this actually take place? Read on and find out!

Is Gran Turismo a True Story?

Yes, ‘Gran Turismo’ is a true story. The screenplay, written by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, is based on the life of the real Jann Mardenborough, who participated in the competition in 2011 to get into the GT Academy, beating 90,000 players in the race car simulation game. As the prize for winning, Jann got to participate in the Dubai 24-hour race with Nissan, as well as became part of a completely funded one-year training program – both of which set him up for the rest of his illustrious career as a professional racer.

“I feel very fulfilled and satisfied that I’m a professional at something. It’s just something as a teenager which I wanted to do – I want to be a pro at something, and my dad was a pro in football. And my dad definitely taught me to do something which I love to do, and he inspired me to do something which is your passion and [I] feel very fortunate to be able to do that, and to be in that position,” Jann told The Drive. While bringing this passion to the silver screen, even Blomkamp was apprehensive about how ‘Gran Turismo,’ which was pitched as a video game film to him initially, would play out in theatres.

What sold the director on the idea and convinced him to helm it was Jann’s story itself. “Jann’s story is unbelievable because he went from playing Gran Turismo in his parents’ house on a console – like a driving system console that he built – to placing third at Le Mans,” Blomkamp said in an interview with IGN. “It was this very organic merging of a video game backbone with a real-life, real-world setup and characters that work organically.” While Jann’s initial journey starts with him playing ‘Gran Turismo,’ the majority of the story focuses on his racing career.

To maintain the realism of the film, actual cars were used, which were driven by the actors themselves on the race tracks. “There’s something about the, like the violence of it that was so, like, you know these cars are going 250 miles an hour and, you know, pulling into these pits and we’re using these pneumatic drills to take tires off, and the smell of burning rubber and the engines roaring and stuff. It felt really gritty and violent, and crazy!” said actor David Harbour, in an interview with The Movie Report, on what it was like to shoot the racing sequences on location.

All the racing scenes that make up for a vast majority of the action in ‘Gran Turismo’ have been captured with close-up shots that follow both the race cars and the drivers, which gives the viewers a very personal look at all that goes on in the driver’s seat and makes them a part of the high octane environment. “You take, you know, the adrenaline of the [racing] experience, and if you’re in a movie theatre, you’re just going to get the full thrall,” added actor Orlando Bloom.

Full of passion and grit, the story of ‘Gran Turismo’ plays out on screen like a well-oiled engine indeed. The biographical film isn’t simply about one man’s journey from racing on a simulator to racing in international competitions but also about how perseverance and focus can turn your dreams into achievable goals. The story of Jann Mardenborough may seem unlikely to many, but the fact remains that it is as true as the sun rising in the east every day and stands as a testament to all the hours upon hours that the young racer has put into honing his skills behind the steering wheel.

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