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Although it went unrecognized by the Academy, Christian Bale gave a predictably brilliant performance as mechanic, engineer and race car driver Ken Miles in Ford v Ferrari. The actor didn’t only take what was on the page and turn it into magic on the screen though. We recently learned one sweet Ford v Ferrari scene was actually improvised by Christian Bale.
The scene occurs at the beginning of the movie after Ken Miles has just won a race at Willow Springs as his son Peter, played by Noah Jupe, looks on and cheers. It was at this point that Christian Bale had an idea, as Ford v Ferrari director James Mangold recalled:
One of the first takes we did, Christian drove up and he had a line exchange as he drove by his son. And [Christian] said to me, 'Why wouldn't I just ask him to get in with me?' And I said, 'Why not? Let's try it.' And when they get in the car, Christian had the idea to sing this song from his childhood in England. ‘I’m H-A-P-P-Y, I’m H-A-P-P-Y’ which of course Noah knows because he’s also English. It was such a beautiful moment.
It seems that the script for Ford v Ferrari did not have Peter Miles jumping into the car with his father after Ken’s victory at Willow Springs. This was all Christian Bale’s idea and it worked brilliantly. Whether he thought it would add to the scene or just thought it made more sense we don't know. But whatever the reason, the idea came to Christian Bale to have Ken Miles invite his son to hop into the car with him after his win, so during one of the first few takes, Christian Bale proposed this question to director James Mangold.
Although it may not have been what James Mangold had initially intended, the director was open to his actor’s suggestion and they gave it a shot. In addition to proposing that Ken Miles ask Peter to get in the car with him in the first place, Christian Bale also came up with their interaction after. Christian Bale thought to sing a song about being happy that he knew from his childhood. It was fitting given his character’s personality and the fact that he had just won a race. Fortunately, Noah Jupe actually knew the song because he is English as well, so the two could sing the song together, really coming off as father and son.
As James Mangold told Yahoo Entertainment, it was a beautiful moment. In addition to being incredibly sweet, it also serves several functions in the story. Since this occurs early in Ford v Ferrari, it lets us know what kind of father and man Ken Miles is, who up to that point has largely been a brash and prickly character. Secondly, it further establishes the importance of the relationship between Ken and Peter Miles.
Ken’s relationship with Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby and Caitriona Balfe’s Mollie Miles are both important as well, but I would say that the father-son relationship between Ken and Peter is really at the heart of the film. Christian Bale’s improvisation in this scene really helped to establish and contribute to that.
The other notable thing about this anecdote from James Mangold is that it turns out that Christian Bale actually did some driving! We had previously heard that the most driving Christian Bale did on Ford v Ferrari was driving to work in the morning, but it seems that he was in the car for part of this scene and he actually drove up to Noah Jupe.
Ford v Ferrari races onto Digital on January 28 and arrives on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD on February 11. The film will also compete for four Oscars, including Best Picture at the Academy Awards on February 9. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what movies you can look forward to this year and for the latest movie news stay tuned to CinemaBlend.