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INTERVIEW – Gamer Turned Race Car Driver Jann Mardenborough on ‘Gran Turismo’

Gran Turismo Interview min

At first glance, the premise of the new film, Gran Turismo, sounds completely absurd. Then when you find out that it is based on the true life story of elite gamer turned elite race car driver Jann Mardenborough, you can’t help but be awed by what he accomplished.

Recently, Senior Writer Elijah Johnson had the opportunity to speak with Mardenborough, who also served as a stunt driver in the film. Mardenborough talked about how excited he was to have the chance to contribute on screen to the film about his life.

“I very much like to be in control of things. So to be in control of how the main car is portrayed in the movie, with the racing scenes, was very important to me,” Mardenborough said. “I’m a racing car movie fan and to make a good race movie, you need speed, it needs to look fast, it needs to look realistic, so to have that control over that, I was very lucky and blessed to have the opportunity.”

On screen, Mardenborough is played by Archie Madekwe, the British actor who has been in projects like See on Apple TV+ and Midsommar by A24. It can’t be easy to see another person acting out your life story, but Mardenborough shared that the two of them met at a race track in the UK about one month before filming, and spent several hours getting to know each other. “He was asking me so many questions about my life, personal and private. He put me at ease actually because he was asking me so many questions so intently. It was like ‘Okay, I know this person really wants to do a good job,'” Mardenborough said.

Jann Mardenborough in a Racing Simulator at a Gran Turismo Fan Event
Jann Mardenborough Demonstrates a Racing Simulator at a Gran Turismo Fan Event

Of course, beyond the actor playing him, there must be so many elements of the actual story that Mardenborough wanted to be told authentically. And while, a feature film can’t properly tell one’s life story, Mardenborough talked about how important it was for him that the journey that drivers have to go through to become a professional in motorsport is properly depicted.

“It was impirtant to me that the audience understood the process of getting a racing license because it’s not something that’s really understood outside of real motorsport people….” Mardenborough said. “Just for more people to understand the motorsport ladder, the different cars involved, all the race cars. All the cars you see in the movie are racing cars. They’re either GT3 cars, LMP3 cars or LMP2 cars…it was important that they get to see an authentic experience of motorsport.”

To say that Mardenborough’s story is inspirational feels like a disservice to his unbelievable journey. The odds that he had to overcome, under intense scrutiny, are unlike anything we’ve seen in sports. It’s no surprise that Mardenborough had a very clear and well thought out answer to the question of what he hopes audiences will take away from his story.

“I hope they take away that dreams are possible. You can follow your dreams. You have to follow your dreams. Nobody else is going to do it for you, so you have to believe in them. Nobody’s coming to save you. You take control and direction of your life and do something which brings you purpose and that you’re passionate about.”

Watch the full conversation below. Gran Turismo is out in theaters now.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist. To support the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.

POC Culture Interview with Jann Mardenborough

About Gran Turismo

Based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, the film is the ultimate wish fulfillment tale of a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills won a series of Nissan competitions to become an actual professional racecar driver.

Directed by: Neill Blomkamp Screenplay by: Jason Hall and Zach Baylin.

Based on the PLAYSTATION STUDIOS video game.

Produced by: Doug Belgrad, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan and Dana Brunetti.

Executive Producers: Kazunori Yamauchi, Hermen Hulst, Jason Hall and Matthew Hirsch.

Cast: David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe, Darren Barnet, Geri Halliwell Horner and Djimon Hounsou.

Gran Turismo is a trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.

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Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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