'Ford v Ferrari' roars into theaters Nov. 15

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
Christian Bale in "Ford v. Ferrari," in theaters Nov. 15.

Hollywood loves epic battles: "Clash of the Titans." "Batman vs. Superman." Godzilla vs. anything.

Now here comes the heavyweight movie that Detroit has long been waiting for: "Ford v Ferrari."

The story of Ford's historic 1966 defeat of the famous Italian racing marque at the world's most famous endurance race, LeMans, will be told on Nov. 15 when the movie is released to theaters. A trailer was dropped this week, and it promises scenes filled with speed, crashes and sexy cars.

But learning from the checkered history of racing movies, director James Mangold ("Logan," "3:10 to Yuma") has taken care to make this movie about more than two car companies. This is a movie about big personalities (Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, Henry Ford II) played by big movie stars (respectively, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Tracy Letts).

"Ford v Ferrari" tells the tale of Henry the Deuce’s quest – after being spurned by Enzo Ferrari in a cross-Atlantic merger – to embarrass the Italian in his own sandbox: LeMans, the 24-hour race that Ferrari had won 6 years running.

The stakes were big and so were the egos. The film goes behind the scenes as Ford hires Shelby to build one of Ford’s iconic cars – the GT40 – to pull off one of racing’s greatest upsets. Spoiler alert: Ford sweeps the podium.

“You’re gonna build a car to beat Ferrari... with a Ford,” says British race-driver Miles in the clip. “And how long did you tell them you needed? Two-three hundred years?”

“Ninety days,” snaps Shelby.

The focus on auto personalities follows Ron Howard’s successful formula in 2013’s “Rush,” which relived a Formula One title duel by casting Hollywood heart-throb Chris Hemsworth in the leading role. That movie seemed to give a second breath to racing movies (after disasters like Steve McQueen’s 1971 flop “LeMans"), "Ford v Ferrari" roars into theaters this year along with another highly anticipated car film, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

"Ford v Ferrari," its source material derived from A.J. Baime’s critically acclaimed book, “Go Like Hell,” was ultimately based on an original screenplay. Initially cast with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in the leading roles, the movie has taken a circuitous course to the big screen.

Damon and Bale are already promoting the movie, appearing as honorary starters and waving the green flag for the Indy 500 Memorial Day weekend.

Despite Ford’s favorable outcome, the movie was made without the Blue Oval’s help. Indeed, the preview does not seem to cast Henry Ford II in a favorable light as he whimpers in the passenger seat after being taken by Shelby for a wild test ride in the GT40.

“Based on this trailer, I think I might miss opening night! I knew Henry Ford II and Tracy Letts is no Henry Ford II,” the Deuce's son, Edsel Ford II, tweeted this week after seeing the trailer.

Hollywood hopes for more positive reviews this winter.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.