’Tis the season of announcing car-centric dramas and biopics. Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce are the latest godfathers of the automobile to get the anamorphic treatment, with the announcement that Asif Kapadia will direct a “fact-based” historical drama about the pair that gave us the Spirit of Ecstasy. Kapadia earned a medal for distinguished service to car enthusiasts worldwide with the outstanding documentary Senna. He might be doing the same in music, too, as the British filmmaker is up for an Oscar for his Amy Winehouse biopic, Amy.
The Rolls-Royce film actually has been in development for years, helmed by producers Anthony Haas and the late Sir Richard Attenborough. Martin Scorsese joined the producer’s roster in 2012. Silver Ghost (working title) takes place around the turn of the 20th century. It tells the story of how two Englishmen from opposite worlds joined to build the world’s preeminent car. The second plot line will follow a love story (because Hollywood), hopefully with some tangential connection to Eleanor Thompson, the model for the sculptor who shaped the Spirit of Ecstasy, even though that would seriously strain the definition of “fact-based.”
The machinations of Messrs. Rolls and Royce are totally movie-worthy. Royce was the perfectionist engineer who designed the cars and oversaw production; Rolls was the salesman showman who made the public crave them. They met over lunch in 1903 at the Grand Central Hotel in Manchester. Three years later, Rolls won the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy in a Rolls-Royce, and that same year the Silver Ghost arrived. Four years later, Rolls would die in an airplane accident, and his company would go on to give us the term “waftability,” which BMW trademarked in 2003. (That wasn’t a spoiler).
With Silver Ghost finally on the move, it joins Michael Mann’s Enzo Ferrari—the one that won’t have Christian Bale in it—and the Ferruccio Lamborghini film backed by AMBI Group. The guys at Dickhouse Entertainment, a.k.a. the Jackass crew, did a biopic on Evel Knievel that hit theaters last year and was pretty good, and Scorsese is said to be right now working on a Knievel movie with William Monahan, who wrote The Departed. Clearly, someone’s been dosing Hollywood water with benzine…