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Ron Howard and Formula 1: A preview of Rush for a great cause

Austin Photo: News_Kevin_Starting grid Ron Howard_Nov 2012_stage
The Starting Grid stage. Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: News_Kevin_Starting grid Ron Howard_Nov 2012_ron howard
Ron Howard speaks at a press conference following the luncheon. Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: News_Kevin_Starting grid Ron Howard_Nov 2012_bobby epstein_ron howard
Ron Howard (r) with COTA chairman and founding partner Bobby Epstein. Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: News_Kevin_Starting grid Ron Howard_Nov 2012_luncheon
Photo by Kevin Benz

Ron Howard never went to the moon, but that didn't keep the former child star, teen star and now two-time Oscar winning director from making Apollo 13.

So too, Howard never raced a Formula 1 car, but his new film Rush, still in post-production, promises to introduce American audiences to what is generally referred to as the golden age of Formula 1 racing — the 1970s — and the stage for that introduction could not have been better.

With Austin's United States Grand Prix less than three weeks away, Circuit of the Americas (COTA) hosted the inaugural Starting Grid, a Formula 1 kick-off luncheon for 1200 of their closest friends and supporters. Sure the event was filled with accolades from the Governor, the Mayor, the leadership of COTA — there were a lot of backs needing to be patted — and the event raised money for the Seton Breast Cancer Center and Dell Children's Blood & Cancer Center. But it was Howard, the international celebrity filmmaker (and a man most still recognize as Opie from Mayberry) who people came to see.

Howard chooses great human drama with powerfully complex characters for his films, and he prefers telling true stories. So it seems natural that Howard would choose to tell the story of one of the great rivalries in Formula 1 history between drivers James Hunt and Nikki Lauda.

"The Grand Prix racing community has really supported it," Howard explained. "It's a very entertaining story which is why I took it on. It's a great rivalry story with very different characters. There's some very inspirational elements in this story and there's a lot of tension in this drama. It's trying to be as authentic as possible and transport you as much as we possibly can."

Rush will not be released until September 2013 but Howard and COTA could not miss the opportunity to talk about the film on the eve of the first Formula 1 United States Grand Prix (USGP) to be held since 2007. Howard is an unabashed fan of the new USGP and spoke highly about what he thinks it means to Austin.

Austin knows a lot about holding great festivals. There's something cool about [Formula 1 racing]. People dress cool, the clubs fill up at night, there's a very contemporary, celebratory vibe.

I'm planning to go to [the USGP] and now I've been to a few [Formula 1 races]. They're a great weekend, it's fun and it's different from a Super Bowl. There's this regional component. It's the excitement of the sport and it only moves through your region once a year, so there's an element of excitement, almost a festival feeling in and around it and it really makes for a great weekend."

Austin is counting down the days.

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