Oscar voters, start your engines.
On Thursday night at the Venice Film Festival, Adam Driver and Michael Mann officially kicked off awards season with the world premiere of their racing drama “Ferrari,” which debuted in competition.
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The packed house at the Sala Grande Theatre showered Driver and Mann with a six-minute-standing ovation. Driver fought back tears at the tragic conclusion of the film. As he stayed in his seat, Mann helped him up to receive the applause for the Italian-set film.
“Ferrari” has been the big ticket of Venice, and the premiere didn’t disappoint, finally bringing some star power to the Lido. Driver, who plays racecar driver Enzo Ferrari in the film, approached crowds of screaming fans, scribbling out a few autographs. These groupies lined up for hours in the Italian sun to catch a glimpse of the actor best known for playing Kylo Ren in “Star Wars.”
Patrick Dempsey also attended the premiere, drawing screams from fans who asked him to sign pictures and “Grey’s Anatomy” posters.
While Venice usually leads with glamour and A-list talent, this year’s festival lost a roster of huge stars — including Zendaya, Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender — due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. Even Penélope Cruz, who plays Laura Ferrari in Mann’s film, decided to skip out on Venice due to the optics of looking like she crossed the picket line. (The cast of “Ferrari” is allowed to do press since its an indie movie from distributor Neon, but Driver was the only big star in attendance.)
Based on the biography “Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine” by Brock Yates, Mann’s “Ferrari” is set during the summer of 1957 as the eponymous racer and entrepreneur (Driver) must overcome threats of bankruptcy, divorce and the death of his son to save his business. Ferrari bets all on the Mile Miglia, a 1,000 mile-race across Italy. The supporting cast includes Shailene Woodley, Gabriel Leone, Sarah Gadon, Jack O’Connell, Patrick Dempsey and Giuseppe Bonifati. Mann shot the film on location in Ferrari’s hometown of Modena.
On the morning of the “Ferrari” premiere, Driver made headlines at the film’s press conference for proudly defending the SAG-AFTRA waivers that allowed him to attend the festival and promote the film.
“Why is it that a smaller distribution company like Neon and STX International can meet the dream demands of what SAG is asking for — this is pre-negotiations — the dream version of SAG’s wishlist, but a big company like Netflix and Amazon can’t?” Driver asked the press. “And every time people from SAG go and support a movie that has met the terms of the interim agreement, it just makes it more obvious that these people are willing to support the people that they collaborate with, and the others are not.”
Variety hailed “Ferrari” as “gripping and masterful” in its Venice review, calling it “heady, intricately dark and raptly absorbing.”
Driver is no stranger to the Venice Film Festival, which premiered his 2019 drama “Marriage Story” (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and his 2022 dark comedy “White Noise.” But “Ferrari” marks the first time Mann has ever world premiered a title at the festival celebrating its 80th year. Mann’s last movie was the 2015 flop “Blackhat,” which makes “Ferrari” something of a comeback moment for the iconic director of “Heat,” “The Insider” and “Ali.”
“Ferrari” will open in theaters Dec. 25 from Neon. It will next serve as the closing night selection of the 2023 New York Film Festival.
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