South African director Neill Blomkamp is set to direct a Gran Turismo movie for Columbia Pictures. Deadline first broke the news of a potential GT film in May, but on Tuesday, Sony announced a release date for the film: August 11, 2023.
Video games don’t often make great movies, though I still have a soft spot for Super Mario Bros, even if the elevator scene with the koopas ruined slow dances at weddings for me forever. Although Blomkamp is no stranger to horror, the GT movie is unlikely to feature an army of subterranean dinosaurs.
Instead, the plot involves a teenager GT gamer whose skills see him through a series of competitions to become a professional racing driver.
If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should, because from 2008 until 2016, the Nissan Playstation GT Academy program did just that, identifying promising talent using the Playstation driving game.
GT Academy was the brainchild of Darren Cox, who was working in Nissan’s marketing department in the UK. In 2016, Cox explained that the idea came about during a co-promotion with Sony in 2006, where the prize was a new Nissan 350Z. Contestants had to compete in GT and on a real track to determine the winner.
“After the event, one of the instructors mentioned to me that some of the guys were actually pretty good [at track driving]. Comparing their lap-times in real life versus the game showed a pretty good correlation between the two, and we started working on the idea of trying to take a good gamer and make them a racer,” Cox told me.
Two years later, the first GT Academy competition was held, with Spain’s Lucas Ordóñez emerging triumphant. A decent race in the 2009 Dubai 24 Hours prompted Nissan to sign Ordóñez to its works racing team, and from 2010 to 2016, the program minted another 21 winners, some of whom have gone on to win prestigious races like the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia.
It’s not the only racing movie in the works—Apple is apparently paying for a Formula 1 film starring Brad Pitt as a retired driver who comes back into the sport to race against a rookie. Despite the big names attached—Lewis Hamilton as a producer, Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski directing—the plot sounds too close to 2001’s Driven, which featured Sylvester Stallone as an aging driver persuaded to come out of retirement to race in the CART series (now IndyCar).
Time will tell if we’ll get to see Brad Pitt drive his F1 car off the track and into a car chase through Chicago.