A production assistant, assigned to work on the end-of-movie credit roll, was making the rounds on the set of the movie “Rush“, as the crew filmed at the Nurburgring race track in Germany, in fall 2012.
“Excuse me,” she said to a man in a racing suit that said “Jochen Mass” on it. “What is your name?’
“Jochen Mass,” he answered.
“No, I know that’s who you play in the movie,” she said. “But what is your name?”
“Jochen Mass,” he said again.
The PA looked flustered, “No your real name. What is your real name?”
The PA went off in search of someone who spoke German, because she was sure the man was not understanding her question.
“She couldn’t believe it,” the man – the real Jochen Mass – explained recently at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida, where he was honored as grand marshal.
Yes, that really was Jochen Mass, driving the #12 Marlboro McLaren in the movie. That really was Mass passing stuntmen portraying Niki Lauda and James Hunt (Mass’ teammate) in a key scene at the 1976 German Grand Prix. It was perhaps the fictional but realistic racing movie’s one moment most anchored in reality.
That sequence was filmed at the same track where it happened, the Nurburgring, by the way, (Hunt won, Mass finished third, Lauda nearly died in a fiery crash).
“Ron Howard, the producer, asked me for technical assistance on the movie,” Mass explained. “And that’s what led to me driving the replica of my car in the film.”
Mass, now 67, enjoyed a decade in Formula 1 racing, from 1973 to 1982, won the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix – his only F1 triumph, and the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans. Although he retired from competitive driving long ago, he still races the occasional vintage car event. He’s fit, and managed to emerge pretty much unscathed from his career.
Mass was the only person to play himself in the movie, although Mario Andretti said he would have been interested in participating, if asked.
“I never heard from Ron Howard,” Andretti said. “I would have done it.”
Mass said it was a memorable moment, to be able to re-create history, and to turn back time – even for just a few frames of a movie.
March 29, 2014