Starz is revving its engines, tapping filmmakers Wolfgang Petersen and Ron Shelton to develop a project set in the world of 1950s and ’60s auto racing.
“Kings of Speed” will take place both on the international auto racing circuit of day, led by Enzo Ferrari, and the underground car culture of Southern California. Potential 10-hour limited series is being written by Shelton, who would also helm some episodes. Petersen may also direct.
Larry Spiegel and Judy Goldstein brought the idea to Petersen (“Air Force One,” “Das Boot”), who recruited Shelton, known for such sports-themed features as “Bull Durham” and “Tin Cup.”
Growing up in Europe, Petersen said he was enamored with the era’s auto racing, who drove the fastest cars at Nurburgring, Monza and Le Mans, ran with the beautiful women and frequently died in fiery crashes.
“They were rock stars,” Petersen said. “Everything was glamorous and sexy. And it was a very violent sport at the time. These guys were living on the edge. One night they’d be partying, and the next day they’d be dead.”
Shelton, meanwhile, said he remembered growing up in Southern California watching auto enthusiasts like Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby traveling to Europe to take on stars there.
“This was a hotbed of young guys who were racing cars here, but it was considered a third-rate sport,” Shelton said. “They looked to Europe as the ultimate goal. Many drove for Ferrari himself.”
The story will also take on a David-and-Goliath theme in parts, as Shelby, who lived and worked in Santa Monica, grows enamored with European racing and wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959. Shelby eventually begins a 1960s battle with Ferrari.
Shelton is utilizing public domain source material as well as the upcoming book “Twice Around the Clock — The Yanks at LeMans,” by Tim Considine.
Should the project make it to production, Petersen plans to shoot it in Europe.
“We’ll have to reconstruct with CG and really re-create these places,” he said. “But there are cars that are still around.”
Petersen called the concept a “rich world to mine,” while Shelton said he was flabbergasted that no one had produced a feature or TV project yet set in this arena.