LONGFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 11: drives the # Dallara F312 during the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series race at the Brands Hatch Circuit on August 11, 2013 near Longfield, United Kingdom. (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

Jann Mardenborough on What Makes ‘Gran Turismo’ Work

Jann Mardenborough is the kind of racing story that makes you believe you can do anything. Winner of the GT Academy, Mardenborough became a success story that inspired so many for how his determination to become a driver helped him to overcome all the obstacles to be the kind driver he always believed himself to be. Talking to Mardenborough now, he’s clearly excited to see his story being told to a new audience with the movie Gran Turismo.

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I spoke with Mardenborough via Zoom about the movie where he talked about the inspiration behind it and how they decided what to include from his life. “The movie follows the first four years of my career, so from 2011 until 2015,” he said. “So it’s condensed into two hours fiften. There’s things that aren’t in the movie, which I would love to be in the movie but the movie would be five hours long if it were all put in there. My career since then, I’ve done some other cool stuff since. The movie focuses a lot on getting into racing. So that route, staying at being at home, working in a department store, in retail, within the competition, that whole process. And then the roots, the first few footsteps into Motorsports. And of course it shows the darkest lowest point in my career in life, Nürburgring, the redemption after that. It’s not like I had a choice on what exactly they wanted to put in the movie, but I’ve been involved heavily involved in all the scripts. And of course this is a biopic, so it’s my life.”

F1 is, currently, one of the most talked about sports at the moment. Mostly thanks to Drive to Survive, a Netflix series that brought many American viewers into the sport. For Mardenborough, he’s just happy that people are into racing as a whole. “It’s come at a good time because F1 in general has never been more popular than what is today,” he said. “And I’m glad for that because I love racing. I want more people to get interested in racing because I think it’s the best thing in the world. And yeah, the Gran Turismo, it does a great job. It’s come at a great time. The time is great and I feel very blessed to be, for it to be based on a chapter of my life and to get more people involved in cars and in motor sport.”

Bringing Jann’s story to life

Archie Madekwe as Jann Mardenborough and David Harbour as Jack Salter in Gran Turismo
(Sony Pictures Releasing)

One of the most appealing parts of Gran Turismo is the relationship between Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) and Jack Salter (David Harbour). Salter is not a real man, a fictionalized version of a man who did help Mardenborough to his success. So I asked about the decision to bring a fictional man to life when it is such an important role, and one that did mean a lot to me as an audience member.

“I’m glad to hear that really, because so there’s three main characters were me, what’s called Jack, but then you have Danny, those are based off real people. So Danny is based off the person who created GT Academy. He’s called Darren Cox. So that’s who that person’s based off. Whereas Jack is based off a real engineer that was with me until 2016, he passed away in 2020, called Ricardo Dilla.” Mardenborough went on to talk about how Dilla and Cox helped shape him in his career and that both Salter and Danny are inspirations for those characters.

With a movie like this though, it does help him reach a larger audience with his story. So I asked Mardenborough what the most exciting part about the Gran Turismo journey has been for him so far. “It’s the message that I’ve got on social media,” he said. “The dms. As somebody that never spoke about my dreams before to anybody apart from my family. I never mentioned it to anybody else. Friends, close friends, girlfriends, nothing. I kept that to myself. So when I get dms from people saying ‘the movie has inspired me, you’ve inspired me to follow my dreams. And they go a bit more in depth, but they never tell me what that dream is? And there’s been so many messages like that. I love it because you have to protect those. You don’t talk about them. Everybody has dreams I think you don’t talk about them, you work on them.”

Gran Turismo is available on demand.

(featured image: Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.