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Jann Mardenborough, the Face of Gran Turismo

Jann Mardenborough is the man whose real life story of going from gamer to professional race car driver, inspired the Gran Turismo movie.

Gran Turismo Film based on the real-life story of Jann Mardenborough

  • Jann Mardenborough was actually the third winner of the GT Academy, not the first as the film depicts. But he had never driven a race car or performed in motorsports prior to the Academy.
  • Mardenborough served as a co-producer, stunt driver and consultant on the movie.
  • The movie directed by Neill Blomkamp had a limited release in early August with a wide release across the United States set for August 25, 2023.

In 2011 Jann Mardenborough competed in a series of races in Gran Turismo against 90,000 other gamers to eventually become the youngest winner of the GT Academy Competition. A once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity, that would be the first of his career. Twelve years later, in the age of Video Game adaptations, Mardenborough would become the face of Gran Turismo on the silver screen.

Gran Turismo: Twice-In-A-Lifetime Chance

Mardenborough wasn’t the first person to ever win at the GT Academy, but he was the youngest to ever do so and like the film depicts he had never driven a race car or seriously competed in motorsports prior to the win.

He admits that, “It’s very strange getting into racing the way that I did,” stating that percentage-wise the chances of succeeding where he did were astronomically small. With the little real-world racing experience he had, few expected him to stick with it and go as far as he did.

His career since winning the GT Academy started with him competing in the Gt4 European Cup in 2011. Since then he has participated in over 30 races and series across his career.

In our interview with Mardenborough, he talks about how unusual it is to have a movie be made about your career, but when he first learned of the possibility that it could become a reality, he didn’t care.

“I first heard about the movie being based on me in 2017 and I was currently racing in Japan in Super GT and I didn’t care…it was presented to me as a maybe and when I hear the word maybe? I don’t work with maybes, I work with absolutes,” Mardenborough said.

Two years later when it became official and he started meeting with producers and scriptwriters in person to discuss the film, he says that at that point it became real. “Now I need to dedicate some time and effort making sure the script is correct, making sure what they want to do is in line with what I would like to put out there because it’s my life, my name is going to be on it.”

Mardenborough Played Himself in Gran Turismo

Jann was involved early on in the process as he mentions in the interview, meeting with producers and script-writers for the film. He’s credited in the film as a co-producer, consultant and he even served as the stunt double for Archie Madekwe who portrayed him in the movie.

“I got asked by the stunt coordinator…would you want to play yourself? And it fit perfectly with my schedule at this time...and I was like, yea, fantastic!” Mardenborough recalls, also pointing out that it’s not very common for someone to play the stunt double of themselves in their own story.

Mardenborough also shared his favorite moment of the film, which was when he won the GT Academy finals. He says that he has footage of the event from when it happens, “It was just like that in real life. I knew at that moment in time that my life was going to change forever.”

Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story

While the film has received mixed reviews from critics, fans of the series have loved it, with it boasting a 93% approval rating on movie review site Rotten Tomatoes prior to its full release date in the United States on August 25.

The film has always drawn some criticism with how it structured the timeline around certain events of the film, namely the inclusion of a crash that resulted in the fatality of a spectator. Mardenborough had given the filmmakers his permission to include the accident in the film as he thought it, “would have been a disservice for the audience for that not to be in there.”

Overall, it seems to be a good addition to the recent video game adaptations released by Hollywood and could be the start of a new trend that uses existing video game IPs to tell stories outside the original narrative of the games.

Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story is directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Chappie). It stars Archie Madekwe (Midsommnar, Beau is Afraid), David Harbour (Stranger Things, Hellboy), Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy).