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SEPTEMBER 21, 2001

Will Senna Movie Go Ahead?

THE long-discussed movie about the life and times of Ayrton Senna appears to have been given the go-ahead by Hollywood's moguls, with heart throb Antonio Banderas - star of The Mask of Zorro and Desperado - not only tipped to take the starring role but also a key figure in the organization behind the biopic.

Merely by wandering the public areas of the Grands Prix it is clear to see the esteem in which Senna is still held by the racing public, many of whom wear their Senna caps and T-shirts and buy the memorabilia in great numbers. If the movie does go into production however then it is a clear signal that the mystique of Senna, which did so much to accelerate the global popularity of Formula 1 in the 1980s and 90s, is still capable of winning over a much wider audience.

The film is being pieced together with the consent and active involvement of Senna's family, most notably his sister Vivianne who spoke with the British newspaper The Observer, saying: "Ayrton moved people, his story is exciting. Antonio proposed it not only as a commercial project but as an ideal as well.

"I am sure it will be very successful commercially, but his proposal calls for a mix of the personal and the emotional, showing idealism and respect. He understands the myth that Ayrton is."

Banderas' long interest in bringing the movie to production shows that he is committed to the project - as he is going to have to be. It's been four or five years since the idea first broke cover and Banderas is now 41 years of age, so while he may bear more than a passing resemblance to Senna facially one has to suspect that he's going to be spending some punishing hours in the gym to recall the Brazilian's well-honed physique.

Quite what will be made of Senna's final relationship with model Adrianne Galisteau is also a matter of some conjecture, as relations between the Senna family and Galisteau are believed to be somewhat brittle. In the family's view of 'the personal and emotional' life of Ayrton the portrayal of his year together with Galisteau will doubtless a bone of contention.

So too will what was often seen at the time as an unparalleled ruthlessness in his single-minded determination to win races and world championships. The raw aggression of Senna's driving however contrasted sharply against the near-mysticism with which he approached the sport from a spiritual and intellectual level.

Should Banderas get his movie in production it will undoubtedly be the biggest media showpiece in Formula 1 history. The only physical obstacle behind its creation will however be finance, as the footage of Senna's Grand Prix career exists in the FOA's archives, and hitherto the sums of money demanded for its use are believed to have toppled many budgets.

The value to Formula 1 of a high quality and successful Senna biopic may well sway the price somewhat however - as indeed might the intervention of the Senna family. The last attempt at a Formula 1 movie made by Hollywood was the Sylvester Stallone vehicle 'Driven', which was eventually forced by the wayside after the star and project leader claimed that Bernie Ecclestone didn't understand his needs as an artist.

That was read by many as a way of saying that the price was too high for Formula 1 footage, although it can conversely be argued that Ecclestone saw a treatment of the story and was shrewd enough to turn away a turkey of such magnitude as Stallone's finished product. If Banderas can squeeze enough of the Senna legend into a 2-hour movie for Ecclestone's satisfaction however, there might finally be a Formula 1 movie for the sport to be proud of.