Damon, Bale talk up 'Ford v Ferrari' in Toronto

The stars of the racing drama discussed the film following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

The racing drama "Ford v Ferrari" sped into the Toronto International Film Festival Monday night, telling the true story of Ford's quest to topple the Ferrari racing team's dominance of France's 24 Hours of Le Mans race in the 1960s.

"Ford v Ferrari" director James Mangold and stars Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Tracy Letts, Caitriona Balfe, Noah Jupe, Jon Bernthal and Josh Lucas participate in a question and answer session following a screening of the film during the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday night.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star as the teammates who helped build the Ford GT40 from the ground up in order to go head to head with Ferrari. Tony Award-winner Tracy Letts plays Henry Ford II, referred to throughout the film as "The Deuce," and "The Punisher's" Jon Bernthal plays Lee Iacocca, then a vice president at Ford. 

Damon's Carroll Shelby and Bale's Ken Miles are the outsiders who are trying to follow their instincts and vision and achieve greatness, while the team at Ford headquarters — especially Letts' bottom line-obsessed boss — often stands in their way. Josh Lucas, who plays Ford's right hand man Leo Beebe, is essentially the movie's villain character, an uptight company man who wants things done by the book.  

Damon, along with Bale, Letts, Bernthal, director James Mangold ("Walk the Line") and other members of the cast, discussed the movie with a sold-out audience following a screening of the film at the Elgin Theatre, one of two "Ford v Ferrari" showings at the fest Monday night. 

"It’s definitely a movie about friendship," said Damon. "I didn’t really care about the car world that much, but I cared incredibly when I read about these guys and their passion for what they were doing, how different they were from one another, that conflict and how that conflict kind of fueled their innovation and their creation of this car."

Damon related the journey of the film's characters trying to build a car to the process of making a studio-funded movie. 

"That's like a 1:1 comparison," he said. 

Bale, who said he'll be watching the film with Miles' family members later this week, said the film's story transcends the racing world. 

"Regardless of our knowledge of racing or not, it’s all about a dream that we can all relate to," he said. "It happens to be told at 230 mph, but it’s really about the people that you love and have lost, and dreams, and what you want in your life."

Bernthal said playing a revered character such as Iacocca, who died earlier this year, was a treat.

"It was a really wonderful opportunity to pinpoint Lee at this space in time when he was full of ambition, hope and nerves," he said. "He wasn’t this titan in industry, but he was on his way."

Letts, for his part, joked he didn't dig too much into Henry Ford II before taking on the role. 

"I didn’t do a lot of research," Letts said. "The script was very good. I watched a couple of YouTube videos, (they were) not helpful. But I had a great haircut."

"Ford v Ferrari," which held its world premiere in August at the Telluride Film Festival, is set to open Nov. 15. Mangold said he had a tough time cutting the film, and its 152-minute running time was the most he felt he could get away with. 

"You should have seen the 3-hour, 15-minute version," he said.