24h Le Mans
20/11/2019 - 13:01

Le Mans 66 – Parallel paths

To coincide with the opening of the exposition at the 24 Hours Museum (from 21 October 2019 to 23 February 2020) dedicated to the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans and release of the film "Le Mans 66" a.k.a. "Ford v Ferrari" (15 November), this series revisits the 34th running of the race staged on the big screen by James Mangold. This installment covers a few stories about Christian Bale and Matt Damon, playing the roles of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby, respectively, and drivers whose fathers made their mark at the legendary race.
Le Mans 66 – Parallel paths

- In Le Mans 66, James Mangold directs Matt Damon and Christian Bale, together on the silver screen for the first time. Bale had already worked with Mangold in 2007 on 3:10 to Yuma, the remake of a western directed by Delmar Daves in 1957.

- Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby both served in World War II and Christian Bale and Matt Damon have starred in films about the war directed by Steven Spielberg. In 1987, in his first major role, Bale played the hero in Empire of the Sun as a 13-year-old boy separated from his parents in Japan-occupied China. In 1998, Damon played the titular role in Saving Private Ryan.

- Both actors have also starred in biographical sports movies. In 2009, in Clint Eastwood's Invictus, Damon played François Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team during its win at home in the 1995 World Cup. The following year, Bale incarnated Dicky Eklund, boxer Micky Ward's trainer in The Fighter directed by David O. Russell.

- Among the drivers selected to appear in Le Mans 66 figure three sons of previous competitors – and even winners – of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Alex Gurney plays the role of his father, Dan. Of his 10 starts, the senior Gurney participated in the race from 1964 to 1967 representing Shelby American: two at the wheel of a Shelby Cobra Daytona (fourth in 1964, retirement in 1965) and two with Ford (retirement in 1966, winner in 1967). Alex Gurney (45 years old) has never taken the start in the 24 Hours, but has won two titles in the American endurance Grand-Am Road Racing Championship (in 2007 and 2009).

- Unlike his dad Phil, the first American to win Le Mans (three victories in 1958, 1961 and 1962), Derek Hill has never participated in the 24 Hours. Born in 1975, he took the start in the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona at the wheel of a Bugatti EB110. After three wins with Ferrari, his father Phil was one of the first drivers recruited by Ford in its big offensive against the Italian marque, with as teammates Bruce McLaren (in 1964) and Chris Amon (in 1965)…the two future winners of the 1966 24 Hours.

- The son of Ronnie Bucknum who finished third at the wheel of a Ford Mk II in 1966 along with Dick Hutcherson, Jeff Bucknum is the only one of the three to have competed at the 24 Hours. In 2003, at the wheel of a Pilbeam prototype, he was forced to retire with engine troubles in the seventh hour. Now 53 years old, Jeff Bucknum was born on 12 July 1966, barely a month after his dad claimed a podium finish at Le Mans (18-19 June 1966).

 

PHOTO (Copyright - 20th Century Fox): In the foreground on the right is James Mangold (plaid shirt) with Matt Damon (blue jacket) and Christian Bale (white coveralls). Also pictured is actor Josh Lucas (brown sports coat) who plays the head of Ford's racing team Leo Beebe at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.