Filming "Grand Prix"

Grand Prix is a 1966 American action film with an international cast. The picture was directed by John Frankenheimer with music by Maurice Jarre and stars James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Brian Bedford, Jessica Walter and Antonio Sabàto. Toshiro Mifune has a supporting role as a race team owner, inspired by Soichiro Honda. The picture was photographed in Super Panavision 70by Lionel Lindon, and presented in 70 mm Cinerama in premiere engagements. Its unique racing cinematography – in part credited to Saul Bass is one of the main draws of the film.

The film includes real-life racing footage and cameo appearances by drivers including Formula One World Champions Phil Hill,Graham Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham. Other drivers who appeared in the film include Dan Gurney, Richie Ginther, Jo Bonnier and Bruce McLaren.

One of the ten highest grossing films of 1966, Grand Prix won three Academy Awards for its technical achievements.

The making was a race itself, as John Sturges and Steve McQueen planned to make a similar movie titled Day of the Champion. Due to their contract with the German Nürburgring, Frankenheimer had to turn over 27 reels shot there to Sturges. Frankenheimer was ahead in schedule anyway, and the McQueen/Sturges project was called off, while the German race track was only mentioned briefly in Grand Prix.

The F1 cars in the film are mostly mocked-up Formula 3 cars made to look like contemporary F1 models, although the film also used footage from actual F1 races.Some of this was captured by Phil Hill, the 1961 World Champion, who drove modified camera cars in some sessions during the 1966 Monaco and Belgian Grands Prix. This was some of the earliest experimentation with in-car cameras for Formula One.

The actual level of driving ability of the actors varied wildly – Bedford couldn't drive at all and was only ever in the car for close-up shots. Sabàto was very slow and nervous, Montand himself scared very easily early in filming and was often towed rather than driving the car, but Garner was very competent and even took up racing and entering cars as a direct result of his involvement in the film. So impressive were Garner's driving skills that some of the real Formula One drivers, including Graham Hill and Jack Brabham, reportedly told Garner that he could have been a successful Grand Prix driver if he had not gone into acting.

The helmet design that James Garner's character uses is that of then-Grand Prix race driver Chris Amon from New Zealand. The only difference was a silhouette of a Kiwi bird that was normally on the side of Amon's helmet that was left off of Garner's, as his character was an American. Brian Bedford's character used a helmet design that was the same as that of real life 1966 BRM driver Jackie Stewart. As Bedford couldn't drive, this was done so that they could shoot footage of Stewart driving the BRM (with a balaclava over his face to hide that it wasn't actually Bedford driving) and pass it off as Bedford.

Circuits featured in the film include; Circuit de Monaco (Monaco), Clermont-Ferrand (France), Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), Circuit Park Zandvoort (Netherlands), Brands Hatch (United Kingdom), and Autodromo Nazionale Monza (Italy). The Nürburgring (Germany), Watkins Glen International (USA), and the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez (Mexico) were all mentioned in the film but there was no footage shown.

The camera car used on the tracks was a Ford GT40 driven by Phil Hill. Cameras were mounted at the front and/or rear of the GT40 with front and rear body panels being removed as necessary. Aerial shots were filmed from an Alouette III helicopter