VENICE, Italy — The DeLorean sports car entered movie legend as the time machine in the "Back to the Future" films and returns to the big screen in "Driven," a comedy thriller about the downfall of its creator, which closed the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
John DeLorean, who designed muscle cars for General Motors before striking out on his own with the futuristic, gull-winged sports car that bore his own name, has gone down in history for his company's spectacular collapse.
"Driven" recounts his last desperate effort to save it, getting involved in a cocaine smuggling deal that turned out to be an FBI sting, set up with the help of neighbor Jim Hoffman, a star-turn for Jason Sudeikis, best known for "Horrible Bosses" and "We're the Millers."
Director Nick Hamm grew up in Northern Ireland where the British government had lured DeLorean to build his factory in a bid to bring economic prosperity to a depressed area riven by deadly sectarian violence.
While the story has a dark underbelly, Hamm said it had to be a comedy.
"If you're going to take people on a story of entrapment, coke deals, models, cars — fast cars in a retro '70s world — do it in a humorous way," Hamm said, adding that he had taken inspiration from '70s-period movies such as "Boogie Nights" and "American Hustle."
Played by Lee Pace, star of the ABC fantasy comedy series "Pushing Daisies," DeLorean comes over as a huckster, selling a hollow version of the American Dream, something Hamm said had contemporary relevance in a world where "buffoonery is somehow celebrated."
"Somehow the egotist, the entertaining politician, the one that has the greatest, quickest, fastest line, the one that is best on television, is somehow the best one for you in your life," he said.
"This is a movie that shows you that these people are not what they (say they) are, and if you're sucker enough to fall for that then more fool you."
Filmed in Puerto Rico "because it looks like California in 1970s," the movie was almost derailed by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last year.
"We didn't know whether we, physically, could actually go back," Hamm said.
"But we had a massive local crew, probably 400 or 500 people that, if we didn't go back, wouldn't get a paycheck. So really there's no option. In the end you go back, you make the movie to the best of your ability, you give people a paycheck and you build an infrastructure or an industry."
"Driven" played out of competition as the closing movie at the Venice Film Festival.
Reporting by Lisa Keddie and Robin Pomeroy