Director James Mangold is having a good run when it comes to adapting real-life stories for the big screen. The filmmaker has so far helmed both Girl, Interrupted and the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line as well as the recently released racing drama Ford V Ferrari.
Coming as something of a surprise from a man who excels at turning fact into silver screen entertainment, Mangold is not as much of a fan of research as you might expect. In fact, he thinks too much research can be a bad thing.
"A whole lot of research can really get in your way. There can be as many versions of Lee Iacocca as you can find books. Speaking as a director of actors, I've seen overly researching get majorly in the way. You aren't playing the real person, you're playing the character in service of the story. You can't carry any more than they exhibited any attribute that ever had in their life in every day."
Hs reasoning for disliking too much research seems to be for the benefit of the actors, his view being that they are playing a character rather than simply trying to emulate the real life figure. James Mangold goes onto say this.
"When I was making Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix has one thing he always asked me to say. He'd come up every day and go 'say that thing, say that thing', and I'd go, 'You're not Johnny Cash.' It was like a relief from the pressure as if he was having to do some kind of thesis, which is not the job of an actor. It's actually much easier to try to take essences and ideas of who that person was while serving the greater story. You can figure out an awful lot about who a person is from what they do, and the script features what they do. If you play what they do, you start to become them even if you don't know shit about them. It's kind of basic."
Mangold's process seems to be that the script will bring the real world character to life, rather than hours and hours of potentially mind-numbing research, citing Joaquin Phoenix as a fan of this biopic-making method.
Though Mangold may not have done much studying, with some critics in fact highlighting that he took some liberties, including the film's pivotal photo finish finale, Ford v Ferrari is historically accurate in many ways.
The film features Academy Award-winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale and is based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles, who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.This comes from Ford v Ferrari's world premiere at The Toronto International Film Festival.