Michael Mann and Robert De Niro Are Competing in a Race of the Enzo Ferrari Biopics

By  · Published on April 15th, 2015

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Michael Mann is about to go head to head with his Heat star Robert De Niro. The director and the actor are working on separate biopics about Enzo Ferrari, the champion Italian racer who founded the luxury sports car company named after him. According to Variety, Mann’s version has been in the works for a while with the Rome-based Cecchi Gori Media (De Niro’s A Bronx Tale) and now he’s in final talks to direct the movie. It’s unclear if this will be his follow-up to Blackhat, but shooting wouldn’t begin until next year. Not that I expect he’d slip something else in before that.

Currently titled Ferrari, according to IMDb, the script for this one is a Mann-ordered mash-up of efforts penned separately by Troy Kennedy-Martin (The Italian Job) and the late David Rayfiel (The Firm), both individually adapted from the 1991 biography “Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Races” by Brock Yates. Interestingly enough, CGM has been trying to get this biopic going for more than a decade and it initially was to star the other Heat lead, Al Pacino. At that time, Sydney Pollack was set to direct. Mann was also apparently already attached to a Ferrari biopic back in 1993 with De Niro cast as the automotive pioneer, according to a recent Motorsport article sharing the news of De Niro’s competing film.

That challenger, also simply titled Ferrari, is also being produced out of Italy but is said to be going into production soon with a planned 2016 release. De Niro is involved as a producer through his Tribeca Enterprises but his primary role is portraying the main subject. The actor slipped the casting news with this recent statement to the newspaper Il Messaggaro (via Motorsport): “For me it is an honor and a joy to tell the life of an extraordinary man who revolutionized the automotive world and across historical periods.”

Those historical periods will range from 1945 through the 1980s, says famed photographer-turned-producer Gianni Bozzacchi. As of yet, there is no director attached to their “epic” take on Ferrari, though Clint Eastwood’s name has been mentioned as being approached and “very interested” if he likes the script. Reportedly that script is or will be written by the team of Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson, who previously worked on the Mann-helmed biopic Ali. All this overlap is quite astonishing if not also totally confusing.

Neither of these will be the first Enzo Ferrari biopic. There’s a 2003 TV movie from Italy starring Sergio Castellitto in the lead, and of course it’s also just titled Ferrari. And as for other portrayals, Augusto Dallara played him in Ron Howard’s Rush. There are also a few documentaries about the subject to be found on the web if you’re interested in learning about the man before one of these biopics makes for a dramatic finish.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.