We chatted with Jann Mardenborough, the ‘player to racer’ subject at the heart of the Gran Turismo movie, with topics ranging from her GT Academy experience to stunts for the film about her incredible life.
Check out a new clip from the film before Gran Turismo hits US theaters on August 25:
It goes without saying that your story, going from Gran Turismo fanatic to professional driver and subject of a Hollywood movie, must be very surreal. Now that the movie is so close to its release, how are you feeling right now?
It felt surreal when I first heard the movie was being considered, and it’s still weird even now. I still can’t get over the fact that my story is “forever”. I am still trying to process that my journey, my family name, is now immortalized for future generations to see. I like to think that this is something my grandchildren can look back on and be proud of.
Going back to the beginning, what made you decide to participate in GT Academy? Was there a specific “Eureka”? moment?
I wanted to be a race car driver since I was five or six years old. But as I got older, the dream seemed less and less achievable coming from a “normal” family, with two parents living relatively normal lives and doing normal jobs. I didn’t know anyone who could sponsor me, so I put that idea aside while I was in school. He was too young to enter the first GT Academy, but he was also too busy with school at the time anyway.
It wasn’t until 2011 that the stars aligned. I had just left college about three months earlier and found myself in a position to put all my eggs in one basket.
I thought, “Let’s see how far I can take this.”
What was the training experience like at GT Academy and what were the most difficult adjustments to make when racing on a real track for the first time? What differences stood out to you the most when you started driving professionally?
The biggest adjustment had to do with my vision. At home, I always played GT on a small 17-inch screen. That’s what I used for years.
Then, when I got into a real car and had an instructor sitting next to me, who had a mirror that allowed him to see where my eyes were focusing, it became clear that I was constantly looking at the ground instead of looking straight ahead at the ground. clue. Your field of vision is radically different in a car compared to when your vision is limited to a small TV; During a race, you’ll often be driving in the opposite direction of where you’re actually looking. This required months of reprogramming and adjustment.
The rest seemed easy to me, even when, at the age of 19, I first got behind the wheel of a 485-horsepower GTR at the Silverstone circuit. As I strapped myself in I thought, “Okay, how am I going to feel about this now? And well, it felt normal. From the braking and acceleration actions, to the way the car twisted and turned through corners, driving the car felt strangely familiar. Aside from the added feeling of vibration and feedback through the steering wheel and seats, the car drove the way GT had prepared me for.
It probably helped that at 19 I was much less risk averse. I just wanted to go fast and develop as fast as possible.
Does this relatively easy tuning period attest to the quality of simulation in GT games? Would the experience have been much different if you hadn’t spent so much time with them?
Of course. Otherwise, he had no professional racing experience: he had never go-karted or driven on a track, and the first time he drove on a freeway it was in transit to GT Academy. At that point in my life, I had only driven 30-40 miles from my home in Cardiff. All my friends were there and we never had any reason to drive anywhere else.
It was a blank slate, which I think worked to my advantage. I had no other preconceived ideas about how to drive a race car or push it to the limit. The only thing I had was the game, and this made it easier for me to internalize all the instructions I was receiving. I didn’t have to unlearn any bad habits or bad advice.
At least for me, the Gran Turismo games allowed me to avoid the tens of thousands of dollars that some parents pay to prepare their children to become professional racing drivers. I was able to skip all of that thanks to the game.
In addition to bringing your life story to the premise of the film, you also had the opportunity to perform stunt driving sequences on behalf of the actor portraying you. How was that and how else were you involved in the production?
I was first approached to drive in the film early last year, and the producers were a little wary, warning me that I would have a long wait. But that didn’t bother me. I just said, “I’m in; This is going to be amazing.” I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of such a pivotal aspect of the story, which seemed so much more significant than, say, a cameo.
As part of this process, I met some legendary stunt drivers, like Steve Kelso, who drove for Talladega Nights, as well as Kitt’s driver on Knight Rider. These very experienced guys were part of the team and it was an honor to learn from them.
Otherwise, I’ve been involved with the project since the first script was written in 2019, and everyone I’ve worked with at Sony Pictures has been amazing. The producers have been very generous in involving me and receiving my input on each draft of the script.
Once on set, they asked me if I wanted to help review the diaries, but I declined because that’s not my world. He was happy with the script and the cast and would not know how to properly evaluate the unfinished footage. That is not my world.
With Gran Turismo about to launch, where do you see your career going from now?
I can only look forward to about two years, as beyond that it’s too hard to predict, but I’m really looking forward to racing at Le Mans. That race is my goal for next year. I would also like to go back to Japan to compete in Super GT. But now I am very flexible; I want to reach 40 as a professional. I haven’t reached my peak as a driver and I’m still hungry.
What do you hope the audience will take away from your story?
I hope people understand that you can do anything you dream of and set your mind to. Of course, it won’t be easy, but you only have one life. Why would you spend years doing something that doesn’t fulfill you or give you purpose? So I hope that the story of Gran Turismo can help motivate people to take a different path in their lives, where they feel more fulfilled and complete. I am very lucky to have had this opportunity when I was 19 years old.
In closing, we have a quick series of questions:
What is your personal favorite game in the series?
I’m torn between Gran Turismo 2 and 3. Both were huge advances over their predecessors and had a profound impact on me when they came out. Gran Turismo 2 had the best selection of cars and tracks, and the best introduction, but the visual improvements in GT3 were profound. I still have very fond memories of playing that game for an entire summer when it came out.
Favorite car to race in Gran Turismo?
The Toyota GT-One in Gran Turismo 2: the LMP car.
Favorite car to drive in real life?
The Nissan GTR GT500 car that I drove in Japan from 2017 to the end of 2020.
It’s a real racing car: two liters, 700 horsepower, lots of downforce and weighs a ton.
Favorite GT race track?
Grand Valley Speedway, without a doubt. I wish it was real because it’s so beautiful and has an amazing atmosphere.
Favorite track to run professionally?
Sportland Sugo, a small circuit in Sendai (north of Tokyo). It’s like a miniature Nürburgring.
Favorite music GT series track?
GT2’s “My Favorite Game” and of course “Moon Over the Castle”. Both are still on my workout playlist because I’m fueled by nostalgia!
Gran Turismo 7 is now available on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4, as well as PlayStation VR2 following a free update earlier this year. Gran Turismo hits US theaters exclusively on August 25. https://www.granturismo.movie/