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JULY 21, 1997

Stallone to make F1 film

IT has been announced in Los Angeles that film star Sylvester Stallone has bought the rights to produce a film called "FormulaÊOne" from Bernie Ecclestone, the man who controls the commercial rights to the sport . Stallone, who has visited a couple of Grands Prix in recent years, has being talking to Ecclestone for three years. He is reported to be planning to produce the film himself and may also star in the movie.

"Boxing and auto racing have always been two of my favorite sports," Stallone said. "I've had the opportunity to bring a boxing film to the big screen, and now with the assistance of Bernie Ecclestone, we will see extraordinary insights and glimpses of coverage that are inextricable components to this most passionate of speed sports." The plot has yet to be decided but is reportedly going to be a story featuring four main characters.

The deal is a smart move for both Stallone and Ecclestone. Bernie wants F1 to re-establish itself in the United States and a film about the sport will make that a great deal easier. Stallone knows that F1 racing attracts millions of fans around the world and a good film about the sport could make him a great deal of money. Stallone is well aware of the merchandising possibilities of such an enterprise, many modern movies making more money from merchandising that from ticket sales. Stallone may also be interested in other F1-related projects in the United States. As one of the principal shareholders in the Planet Hollywood chain of restaurants (along with fellow film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis and businessman Robert Earl) he may want to be involved in the foundation of F1 Cafes as well.

Production of the movie is due to start in 1998 and it is likely to be released in 1999. This gives Ecclestone two years in which to find a suitable location for a United States Grand Prix. Having failed to find a city which is interested in hosting a race, Ecclestone may decide to build his own track and having Stallone as partner may prove to be a sensible move for Bernie.

The construction of racing facilities in the United States is currently a boom industry. Ecclestone is believed to favor LasÊVegas, Orlando or Chicago as the best locations for F1 racing in America.

The last major film about Formula 1 was in John Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix" in the late 1960s, which starred JamesÊGarner, Yves Montand and Eva-Marie Saint.

There are a number of current F1 film projects being developed, notably a film about the life of Ayrton Senna and another on the life of Enzo Ferrari.