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Jann Mardenborough Talks The True Story of ‘Gran Turismo,’ David Harbour & More – Interview

This weekend, Sony’s Gran Turismo races in theaters to tell the exhilarating true story of Jann Mardenborough. Starring Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, and Djimon Hounsou, the new video game adaptation is directed by Academy Award-nominee Neill Blomkamp. 

Jann Mardenborough’s journey from a PlayStation simulation racer to an international motorsport star is the definition of stranger-than-fiction. However, the high always hits until life serves up an unexpected reality check. 

In previous interviews, Mardenborough spoke about incorporating his unbelievable life’s ups and downs into this movie. So, when I had the pleasure of chatting with Jann virtually, I first asked how early on he got involved in the filmmaking process.

Check out the full interview with Jann Mardenborough below:

Mardenborough told me, “So I’ve been involved since the first script. So the first one came through, I think maybe 2019… [I]t was fantastic because they were very open to me being heavily involved. So, after the first script, we were on a Zoom call. And there’s like 30 people going through word through word line through line for six or seven hours. I’m like, ‘I wouldn’t say that. That’s not like the racing. This is incorrect. This is good. We should go more lean into this more this. Humor is not English humor.’ I mean, I’ve been very, very involved, which I’m very blessed with really, because it could have gone the other way.”

But Mardenborough was not only involved in the development; he was actually on set as well and he details his experience as a stunt driver in the film. He shared, “Being on sets was again, very interesting. I’m a movie guy. I’m a car movie guy. I love racing movies. And when I got asked to be a stunt driver playing myself…well it’s never been done before. Somebody that has a biopic made about them, but then that person doubling themselves to stuntman was a first. But because I’m a racing car movie fan, there’s no excuse for not looking good. I like that responsibility.”

Representing himself is a big responsibility, but nothing that Jann wasn’t already familiar with. His esteemed career has been met with peaks and valleys, but one cannot ignore the trailblazing significance of a Black racer in this largely white-dominated sport. I asked how he felt seeing his culture depicted on screen.

“I’m very much aware that in my sports, I’m there’s not many people that look like me. I’ve lived in Japan, I’ve been in a situation I’ve lived there for five years. And I’ve been nobody speaks English, everyone’s Japanese. So it’s…I understand. For me, to work in that environment is okay for me. I’ve personally never thought of the race thing very deeply in my sport. I just care about whoever, if you’re good at your job. Fantastic. I just want you could look, you could be purple. And as long as you’re the best person to be strapped into the wheel of my car, all credit to you.”

Jann Mardenborough - Gran Turismo Movie
Jann Mardenborough was the stunt driver on the set of Gran Turismo. (Photo by Gordon Timpen | ©2023 CTMG. All Rights Reserved)

The film’s motivational underdog story makes it easy to root for Mardenborough, especially thanks to the nimble charisma of lead Archie Madekwe. Madekwe brings layers of excitement, nervousness, sensitivity, and unbridled confidence to his portrayal of Jann – a feat that the real-life figure is proud of. 

“I’m very, very pleased with [Archie]. He’s a fantastic actor. I’ve watched Midsommar that he was in, which he was great. When we met for the first time, he asked so many questions. About my life not only personal, professional. For hours. And that gave me confidence before going to set that this person has a real deep interest in doing the best job they can because he wants to know all this information.”

The cast for Gran Turismo is pretty stacked. From two-time Oscar-nominee Djimon Hounsou as Jann’s father to two-time Emmy-nominee David Harbour playing Mardenborough’s coach Jack Slater, there are a lot of great supporting performances in this movie. 

Mardenborough had nothing but praise for Harbour and he said, “You know David Harbour is… man this guy’s so talented. I’ve seen this person work on set. It’s just something else. He [was always] so intense. His voice is so loud as well, which doesn’t come across. You don’t realize when you watch it in the movie because obviously, you can adjust the sound. But on set, his voice projects so much that you’d hear him halfway down the pit lane. But he would be rehearsing all the time, just very much in the zone. It’s fascinating to watch.”

Gran Turismo is now playing in theaters!

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