News & Opinion | July 27, 2020 6:00 am

Inside the Cruise/Pitt “Ford v Ferrari” That Might Have Been

We might have had a very different story of Ford's Le Mans triumph

Premiere Of FOX's "Ford V Ferrari" - Red Carpet
Christian Bale and Matt Damon arrive at the premiere of Fox's "Ford V Ferrari" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 04, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Last year, director James Mangold’s film Ford v Ferrari opened to critical acclaim, eventually earning a few Academy Award nominations as well. From the attention to period detail to a sharply-written screenplay, there’s a lot to like about the film. But it’s also hard to imagine the film working nearly as well without its two leads, Matt Damon (as car designer Carroll Shelby) and Christian Bale (as driver Ken Miles). Yet it turns out that a very different version of the film was almost produced — with two very different actors playing Shelby and Miles.

At IndieWire, Ryan Lattanzio has the details of the project’s history, which came up when filmmaker Joseph Kosinski spoke at a Comic-Con@Home panel. Kosinski directed the forthcoming Top Gun: Maverick — and, it turns out, had been attached to a project called Go Like Hell years before. That was a planned adaptation of A. J. Baime’s book Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans — which covers the same real-life events depicted in Ford v Ferrari.

The most intriguing piece of information Kosinski revealed? Go Like Hell would have starred Tom Cruise as Shelby and Brad Pitt as Miles. “I wouldn’t say we got close to production, but I got to the point where I had Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt at a table read, reading the script together,” Kosinski recalled during the panel. Budgetary concerns prevented the film from getting off the ground, however — and Kosinski has stated that he was “thrilled” by the version of the story that Mangold directed.

Another director associated with the project years before it made it to the screen? Michael Mann. And while Mann didn’t get to tell this particular true-life automotive story, he has another one in the works: a film about Enzo Ferrari, set to star Hugh Jackman. That’s slated to begin shooting early next year.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.