James Mangold has come on board to direct a project about the battle between the designers at Ford and Ferrari to create the world’s fastest racecar, Variety has learned.
Based on a true story, the film follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby and his British driver, Ken Miles, who are dispatched by Henry Ford II with the mission of building from scratch an entirely new automobile with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans World Championship. The project doesn’t have a formal title, but is known internally as the “Untitled Ford vs. Ferrari Project.”
Mangold had originally been slated to make a drama about kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, but that project was canceled in the wake of complaints by the Hearst family. The Hearsts were concerned that the film would depict Patty Hearst as an enthusiastic member of the SLA, the terrorist group that kidnapped her and which she later joined.
Both the Hearst film and the Ford and Ferrari picture are at 20th Century Fox, the studio behind Mangold’s hugely successful recent efforts, “Logan” and “The Wolverine.” It’s unclear if this will be Mangold’s next project. Mangold is also attached to direct “The Force,” an adaptation of Don Winslow’s best-selling crime thriller, for Fox.
Mangold is developing the “Untitled Ford vs. Ferrari Project” along with screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. The brothers previously collaborated on the script for “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Fair Game.” Jez Butterworth is also an acclaimed playwright, whose credits include “Jerusalem” and “The Ferryman.” Chernin Entertainment is producing the film.
A Fox spokesperson confirmed Mangold’s attachment, but declined to discuss any possible casting. However, sources say that the director is interested in Christian Bale for the role of Ken Miles and Matt Damon for Caroll Shelby.
Fox previously had rights to the A.J. Baime book “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans,” which focuses on similar subject matter. At one point, that project attracted the interest of Michael Mann and Joseph Kosinski. However, those rights have since moved to Legendary Entertainment, which is developing the book into a TV series. Mangold’s film will use different source material.
Mangold’s credits include “Walk the Line,” “Knight and Day,” and “Cop Land.” He is represented by WME and Management 360.