“When I read a script, all I’m looking for is quality of writing,” reveals Tracy Letts. Although he admittedly doesn’t know much about cars or racing, he does know a thing or two about writing as a Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning playwright. So he was instantly drawn to “Ford v Ferrari” because of “the human element … We understand what all of the principle characters have invested in this outcome of the race.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Letts above.
SEE Tracy Letts (‘Ford v Ferrari’): He’s a real supporting Oscar contender with Matt Damon and Christian Bale both going lead
Directed by James Mangold, the 20th Century Fox release tells the true story of how Ford Motor Company drafted expert racer Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and ace auto designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to create a car that could challenge champion Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans race. Letts plays Henry Ford II, grandson of Henry Ford, who hopes to keep the company’s legacy alive by prevailing in the 24-hour competition.
Despite knowing nothing about Ford before reading the script, Letts instantly recognized the character as one of the “hard-assed guys” he usually gets offered. “The Coen Brothers call it ‘The Man Behind the Desk,’ and I get asked to play that part a lot. So there always has to be something about it that’s more interesting to me than just that.” Ford had that in spades: he’s “a captain of industry” who feels “the enormous weight of his family name” on his shoulders. But “he’s also presented as a guy with insecurities, vulnerability, some of it petty and some of it deeply human and understandable.”
SEE ‘Ford v Ferrari’ Q&A: James Mangold and his crew on how building a champion car is like building a movie [LISTEN]
This year also reunites him with “Lady Bird” (2017) director Greta Gerwig and star Saoirse Ronan for “Little Women,” a new version of Louisa May Alcott‘s classic novel about sisters growing up during the Civil War. “I would do anything Greta asked me to do,” he reveals. Her script for the film was “a brilliant adaptation of something that’s been adapted a lot. That’s not easy to do.”
The multi-talented Letts won his aforementioned Pulitzer and Tony for writing “August: Osage County” (2008), and he later won an acting Tony for his leading performance as George in Edward Albee‘s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (2013). Additionally, he competed at the WGA Awards for adapting “August” for the screen in 2013 and at the SAG Awards as a member of the ensemble casts of “Homeland” (2014-2015) and “Lady Bird.” And he just received another Pulitzer nomination for writing “The Minutes,” in which he will star on Broadway in 2020.
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