Best known stateside for his role as a devious Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds," Daniel Brühl is far from being a known name in America, despite being a bonafide celebrity in Germany thanks to the hit comedy "Good Bye, Lenin!" That's likely to change when Ron Howard's "Rush" opens wide today.
In the acclaimed drama based on a true story, Brühl gives a widely-lauded performance opposite an equally invested Chris Hemsworth as Formula One driver Niki Lauda, who shocked the world after returning to his sport following a catastrophic crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix that left him disfigured. For Brühl the role was a godsend, one he deemed responsible for netting him the part of WikiLeaks' former spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg in Bill Condon's upcoming "The Fifth Estate."
Brühl sat down with Indiewire and a select few other outlets at the Zurich Film Festival, where "Rush" last night served as the opening night film. Below are the highlights of our talk.
Brühl knew of Niki Lauda before getting the part.
"I grew up in Cologne, which is not that far away from the race track where the accident happened. When I was a kid, I knew who Niki was. He was and still is an icon in Germany."
"It felt a bit weird at first to play him. I was excited when I got the part but I also panicked. We don’t have that much in common, to be honest. I’m just thankful that Niki supported me throughout the whole process… We talked about serious stuff. Death, overcoming fear, vanity…"
Lauda has seen the film numerous times.
"It was strange for him to see the film and relive these moments. He told Peter Morgan [the screenwriter] that the third time he saw the film he couldn’t sleep that night because it moved him so. He’s human."
How Brühl got the part.
"I went to the audition and I was quite relaxed because I thought I would never get the part. That helped; normally I’m very nervous. I thought they’d let me suffer for two weeks, call me to tell me it was 'awesome,' and then give the part to someone else. So I was quite surprised I got the call only three days after our first meeting."
"They were very keen on offering the part to a German speaking actor, so that was an advantage, and also me and Ron [Howard] connected instantly. We mainly talked; I didn’t have to act. I talked about racing movies I liked, cars and playing this part."
"Three days after the audition, on a motorway, I was overtaking trucks and my girlfriend was screaming at me, 'You are not a good driver!' I looked at my mobile and there were three missed calls from England. That was a good sign. They wouldn't tell me three times no. I called them and Ron offered the part. I pulled over (laughs)."