Interview: Cineworld talks to Rush actor Stephen Mangan

Ace British funnyman Stephen Mangan plays McClaren boss Alastair Caldwell in Ron Howard's racing drama Rush. As the hype revs up ahead of the film's release, we chat to Stephen about his role – and the perplexing issue of accents!

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How does it feel having Alastair Caldwell on set?

“It’s very useful because I can ask him what happened at this particular time, but at the same time if you don’t get it exactly right you’re very conscious of it because he’s standing four feet away. But no, he’s very useful indeed.

He’s very keen to contribute and let us know when we’re getting it wrong. I think he’s starting to understand that we’re making a film and not a documentary, so some of the facts are slightly massaged into a more dramatic and interesting story. He’s devastated I’m dressed in so much gold though. He said he never wore this much gold.”

How are you getting on with the Kiwi accent?

“I’m doing the best I can. It’s funny, Patrick Baladi is playing John Hogan who’s an Aussie, so it’s tricky having someone doing an Australian accent right next to you while you’re trying to do a Kiwi accent. But it’s quite funny, because Chris [Hemsworth] is an Aussie doing a British accent and I’m a Brit doing a Kiwi accent… that’s the magic of movies for you.”

What did you think when you got the script?

“I thought ‘Ron Howard’, that’s what I thought. No, my first thought was to wonder why someone hadn’t made a film about this before. It’s such a great story – James Hunt, the sexy playboy, versus the calculating, obsessive Niki Lauda. Peter Morgan was another big draw. The last time he and Ron worked together on Frost/Nixon the results were just fantastic, so I didn’t need a lot of persuading. I needed more persuading into the hair than I did into the part.”

The hair?

“They’ve bulked it out. It’s the first job I’ve ever done where they’ve had to add hair! I’m not the only one though. The one thing you can say about the ’70s is there was plenty of hair. And polyester. And gold.”

What do you think of the casting?

“Well, Chris is fantastic as James! He couldn’t look any more perfect. Both the leads are cast beautifully. Chris is great – he’s got the looks and the charisma. And Daniel has that intensity and looks, again, remarkably like Niki Lauda. It’s really freaky.”

Do you think racing’s risk-taking nature made it more glamorous?

“I think that certainly gave it its sexiness. There’s also something about the visceral quality – the grubbiness of it. It’s all very evocative and earthy – it’s very gritty. There’s nothing fey about it. It’s pretty manly. All the girls are in skimpy outfits and all the blokes are smoking and wearing medallions and they might die at any minute… it’s very of its time.”