The true story of gamer-turned-racer Jann Mardenborough hits theaters on August 25
Gran Turismo tells the underdog tale of a teen who turns his gaming talents into a professional racing career. Unbelievable though the story may seem, the 2023 sports drama is based on true events and real people.
Iterations of gamer-turned-racer Jann Mardenborough, his parents and some of the story's key players can all be seen in the biopic adaptation, but not every character has a real-life counterpart. David Harbour, for one, appears as a racing trainer named Jack Salter, though it's unclear if he is based on a real coach. And while the actual Mardenborough competed against 90,000 entrants in the GT Academy competition that launched his career, his "rivals" in the movie don't seem connected to any specific racers.
Still, despite some discrepancies, Gran Turismo draws direct inspiration from the moments and people that defined Mardenborough's journey. Meet the actual figures brought to the big screen by Archie Madekwe, Orlando Bloom, Geri Halliwell and more.
Archie Madekwe as Jann Mardenborough
Archie Madekwe plays Jann Mardenborough, the youngest winner of GT Academy who went on to become a professional racing driver. Since his 2011 victory on the Nissan- and Sony-funded TV competition program, Mardenborough has raced competitively around the world.
The English gamer-turned-racer also served as a consultant and co-producer on the 2023 film based on his journey. Mardenborough even stepped in for his actor counterpart as a stunt driver while the cameras were rolling.
In a promotional video for the film, Madekwe and Mardenborough sat down to discuss the real story behind Gran Turismo and what it was like on set.
"I think it's maybe the first film ever where there's a film being made about someone's life and they are stunt driving in the film," shared Madekwe, who appeared in the 2019 thriller Midsommar.
Orlando Bloom as Danny Moore (Based on GT Academy Founder Darren Cox)
Orlando Bloom's character, Danny Moore, takes inspiration from Darren Cox, the real-life founder of GT Academy. During his tenure as European general manager for Nissan, Cox conceived the idea to give Gran Turismo video game experts the chance to sit behind an actual wheel.
In 2012, Cox spoke to The New York Times about the thought process behind GT Academy. He explained that the equipment used in gameplay is remarkably similar to the actual vehicles, from the steering wheels to the pedals. He continued to say that driving in real life — "aiming a car, braking, turning the car into the right area, accelerating out of the corner," as Cox described it — works the same way as it does in the game, "just without the G-forces.”
Djimon Hounsou as Steve Mardenborough
Jann Mardenborough's father, played by Djimon Hounsou in the 2023 biopic, shares his son's competitive spirit as a former professional football player. Throughout his career, Steve Mardenborough took the field with a number of English and Welsh football teams, and even spent a season playing abroad in Sweden for the club IFK Östersund. He is best known for his stint on Darlington Football Club's team in the early 1990s, during which time he and his wife welcomed Jann.
Geri Halliwell as Lesley Mardenborough
Spice Girls alumna Geri Halliwell features in Gran Turismo as Jann Mardenborough's mother, Lesley.
In an interview with The Sun, Jann said the singer "nailed" her part.
"She did it perfectly," he shared. "Everybody knows Geri Halliwell, but now she is playing my mum. It’s weird, it’s so crazy, so far-fetched."
Jann added that his mom had Halliwell's phone number, and the two spoke regularly. "Geri would want to know how I would act in this situation," Jann explained.
A less public figure than her husband, Lesley once gave a brief interview to The Guardian about the film, calling her son pre-racing "not particularly outgoing and quite a home boy."
Takehiro Hira as Kazunori Yamauchi
Takehiro Hira – who previously starred in the 2021 G.I. Joe film Snake Eyes and in the British TV series Girl/Haji — plays the game designer behind the Gran Turismo series. Kazunori Yamauchi is the CEO of Polyphony Digital, the Tokyo-based video game developer behind the successful PlayStation racing game.
Like Jann Mardenborough, Yamauchi's obsession with motorsports isn't limited to the screen. The Japanese creator also raced professionally from 2009 to 2016, competing around the world for the likes of Honda and Nissan.
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