From director James Mangold, the high-octane drama Ford v Ferrari is inspired by the true-life story of American car designer and automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and his British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who overcame their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford that could challenge Ferrari at the most difficult race in all of motorsports, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. Their partnership is a testament to how unconventional thinking, inventiveness, determination and will can overcome the odds to achieve something extraordinary.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Caitriona Balfe — who plays Ken Miles’ wife, Mollie — talked about what it was like meeting Mangold for the first time, what struck her most about both Bale and Damon, and what surprised her about making a movie on this scale. She also talked about hitting the Season 5 milestone on her Starz series Outlander, what she’s most excited about with the upcoming season (premiering in February 2020), and balancing what fans of the book want to see with new surprises.
Collider: Congratulations on this film! It’s just so good and, as a cast, you’re all terrific in it.
CAITRIONA BALFE: Oh, good. I’m glad that you liked it.
Did you have a feeling, when you were making this film, that it would turn out to be one of the best films of 2019? Can you tell, when you’re on set, how something will turn out, or is it only when it’s done and you get to see the finished product that you feel like you really know?
BALFE: Yeah, I don’t know that you ever really know how something’s gonna turn out because there are so many things that need to come together and need to work. But what I do know is that the feeling on set was really good. Jim [Mangold] creates this wonderful atmosphere. He’s like this fantastic conductor. There was so many moving parts and so many things for him to keep track of, with all of the racing stuff and everything. In the beginning, we shot a lot of our family stuff isolated in this house in Highland Park. Later on in the shoot, they had built some of those interiors in one of the airport hangars while he was concurrently filming a lot of the racing stuff. So, you could feel that he was really in a great groove, and that he was excited by what he was doing, and that just created this wonderful atmosphere where everyone just felt they were in really safe hands. When you have that, you hope that’s gonna translate to the screen, and luckily it feels like it has. That’s really exciting ‘cause it was really so much fun to film it.
How was meeting James Mangold, for the first time? Do you still get nervous, the night before you’re going to meet with a big director about a really cool role?
BALFE: Oh, of course, yeah. Also, Girl, Interrupted featured very heavily in my late teens/early 20s, and Walk The Line was such an amazing film, as well. I went in to read for him, actually, and he’s this jolly, bombastic personality. He takes over any room, so the minute you meet him, he’s just so gregarious and friendly, and it was really fun. We started reading the sides, and he was reading Christian [Bale]’s part, and we were really getting into it. At one point, we were so in the scene, but he made a mistake and he started hitting me with the script, and I was like, “Oh, this is a good sign!” It was quite fun. He’s just been brilliant. When you get to work with a director who’s just so on top of their game, like he is, it’s just such a treat.
One of the things that James Mangold is able to do in all of his movies is get amazing performances from all of his actors. No matter how big or small the role, every performance is excellent. Can you describe what it’s like to with him? Why do you think he’s always able to pull that off?
BALFE: You get a sense, immediately, that he really, really cares about character, and he really cares about what you’re feeling and bringing to the table. But what was also amazing was how malleable Matt [Damon] and Christian were with him. Before I went into it, I was thinking that maybe they would be really precious about what they were bringing, but they had just given up all controls because they were so confident in what he sees. That’s the thing, you really trust what Jim is looking at. If something’s not working and he sees it’s not working, then you’re like, “Okay, I’m gonna just let him tell me how to do it better. What would you like? How would you like it different?” He was just brilliant. It was just so much fun working with him.
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