2023 has been a bumper year for big and small screen adaptations of popular video games, from family animation in The Super Mario Bros. Movie to post-apocalyptic ultraviolence in The Last of Us and Twisted Metal, to factually-based drama in Tetris. The most recent addition to this canon is Gran Turismo, a movie based on the PlayStation racing simulation game of the same name.
Of course, you can’t wring much plot from the concept of a racing simulator alone, and so when Columbia Pictures and PlayStation Productions teamed up to make a movie that would showcase the brand, they also saw it as an opportunity to tell one of the more compelling stories to emerge from the game.
Gran Turismo is the story of Jann Mardenborough
Jann Mardenborough is a professional racing driver whose motorsports career began as a child, when he first started playing the Gran Turismo game. He played multiple iterations of the game over the years, and even applied to study motorsports engineering at university, although he ended up leaving the program early.
In 2011, while playing Gran Turismo 5, Mardenborough saw a call for a time trial for the GT Academy, a competition which sought out new racing talent via the game, and promised a racing contract with Nissan to the winner. Mardenborough qualified in the time trial and underwent training with the Academy, ultimately winning the final 20-minute race and embarking on a career as a racing driver.
In the movie, Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), and Nissan marketing executive Danny Moore (inspired by real-life exec Darren Cox) is portrayed by Orlando Bloom. Mardenborough’s parents are played by Djimon Hounsou and Geri Halliwell-Horner.
Mardenborough is played by Archie Madekwe in the movie. While the film takes some liberties with the timeline and specifics of Mardenborough’s career (his qualifiying race was at the Silverstone National Circuit in England, not Dubai), all of the key events of the movie did actually take place in real life, including the tragic death of a spectator during an accident on the track.
Certain characters, however, are completely fictional, including Mardenborough’s trainer Jack Salter, played by Stranger Things star David Harbour, who functions as the has-been-turned-mentor that is a prerequisite in any underdog sports movie, and Never Have I Ever actor Darren Barnet as Jann’s rival Matty Davis.
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.