EXCLUSIVE: A feature doc on one of Formula 1’s most dramatic moments, the row between Ferrari drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi, is the first project to emerge from Finding Jack Charlton producer Noah Media and Sky Studios’ multi-year partnership, with F1 driver Mark Webber set to exec produce.
Villeneuve & Pironi will focus on an intense two-week period in the early 1980s that became known as ‘The Betrayal’. The film will feature interviews with those closest to the two men, with premiere date set for late next year.
The teammates were both aiming to win the 1982 F1 World Title but, during the final laps of that year’s San Marino Grand Prix, Pironi passed Villeneuve to win the race while Villeneuve believed the two had been instructed to slow down. This was an unexpected act that went completely against the team orders Villeneuve thought they were obeying and they never spoke again. Villeneuve died in a crash just two weeks later.
Noah initially wanted to tell only Villeneuve’s story but CEO John McKenna said there were concerns it would draw too many comparisons to the BAFTA-winning Senna.
“[ Noah Co-Founder] Gabriel Clarke suggested a double header about the two drivers around this incredibly tragic moment would be the best approach,” McKenna added. “There could absolutely be a standalone film made about Villeneuve but we realised this could be a really great way of bringing a cross-generational audience to a motorsport story.”
Australian racing driver Webber is exec producing, Torquil Jones is directing and McKenna is producing the film, which will air on Sky/Now TV in Italy, Germany and the UK and be distributed elsewhere by Sky-owner Comcast’s NBCUniversal Global Distribution arm.
The film is reflective of what Noah and Sky want to do with their recently-struck partnership, telling “stories that don’t appeal just to a hardcore sporting audience but can break out,” according to director and Noah Co-Founder Jones, while Clarke said they will have “universal appeal, a strong narrative arc and emotional authenticity.”
Two more films will be unveiled later this month, Arsène Wenger: Invincible (co-produced with Federation Entertainment), which commences a cinema run shortly before heading to Amazon Prime/Canal+, and Netflix’s 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible, about a Nepalese mountaineer who attempts to climb the world’s 14 highest mountains.
Other shows are in the works and Noah is also pushing ahead with self-distribution plans and an ‘evaluation engine’ after receiving $2.7M worth of investment from the likes of Webber and former XIX Entertainment president James Clayton.
The ‘engine’ is currently being built and will allow Noah to compare and contrast projects in areas such as global appeal, strength in certain territories and budget, according to McKenna.