Sony Pictures has been promoting Gran Turismo with the promise that it is “based on a true story.” One of the trailers even goes on to say “This really happened.” But the thing that everyone needs to remember is that there is no truth in Hollywood. All of the so-called “true stories” are embellished for dramatic effect. The only question is this: How far can the truth be bent before it’s no longer true at all?
The core of Gran Turismo‘s story is real. Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) is a professional racer who was discovered because of the skills that he learned while playing the Gran Turismo video games. However, the film presents Mardenborough as the first-ever winner of GT Academy when the competition was actually established years earlier. The movie’s climatic race is also rooted in reality, as is the finish. But there has been some controversy about the way that director Neill Blomkamp and screenwriters Jason Hall and Zach Baylin have reordered the events of Mardenborough’s life. And this may prove to be among the most divisive aspects of Gran Turismo.
Warning: the rest of this post contains spoilers for Gran Turismo.
How does Gran Turismo end?
Strangely enough, the final race in Gran Turismo is also the climactic race in 2019’s racing drama, Ford v Ferrari. Both movies conclude with the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race, just decades apart from each other. Going into Le Mans, Mardenborough’s confidence is badly shaken by a fatal accident that occurred while he was behind the wheel of a previous race. But thanks to the persistence of his trainer, Jack Salter (David Harbour), Mardenborough is convinced to get back into completion.
Their sponsor, Nissan executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), tells Mardenborough and Salter that there is a backlash in the racing world against GT Academy’s “sim drivers,” and the company is threatening to pull its support. To regain their momentum, Moore proposes that Mardenborough and two other GT Academy racers compete in Le Mans and finish among the top 3 to prove that they belong in the sport. Against the odds, Mardenborough and his teammates manage to pull it off and establish themselves as true racers against the very best drivers in the world.
Why is Gran Turismo facing controversy?
While Mardenborough’s crash at the Nürburgring Nordschleife was largely accurately depicted in the film, the screenwriters shifted its place in Mardenborough’s life. Mardenborough’s triumphant third-place podium finish at Le Mans occurred in 2013, and the accident occurred in 2015. Miraculously, Mardenborough was not seriously injured when his car went spinning out of control. However, one fan watching the race was not as lucky. When Mardenborough’s car went into the viewing area, it fatally struck a spectator.
Some reviewers, including Polygon‘s Oli Welsh, have taken the filmmakers to task for misusing that tragic event and shifting it around so that it became a more heroic obstacle for Mardenborough to overcome on his road to the top. The film also shies away from naming the victim, and it focuses largely on Mardenborough’s initial grief and remorse. But by the time Le Mans comes around, the accident barely comes up again.
Whether audiences will notice or even care about this discrepancy remains to be seen. But these particular events did not play out in reality in the same way that the film presented them.
Gran Turismo is now in limited release. It will be released nationwide on Friday, August 25.