From his John Dillinger film “Public Enemies” to his long awaited racing drama “Ferrari,” Michael Mann is no stranger to making films about prominent historical figures. But the director has no interest in conventional biopics that document a subject’s entire life.

While discussing his decades-spanning quest to make “Ferrari” with The Guardian, Mann explained that he never considered directing a film about Enzo Ferrari’s overarching life story. Instead, his film follows a 59-year-old Ferrari (Adam Driver) as he attempts to salvage his racing empire as his personal life crumbles around him.

“I wouldn’t have been interested in some lengthy biopic,” Mann said. “Those are documentaries that belong on the History Channel. They never work. And within this four-month period, all the dynamic forces of Enzo’s life are compacted and in collision.”

Mann also explained that Ferrari’s tendency to avoid leaving his hometown further condensed the film’s scale and placed pressure on the filmmaking team to get every detail right.

“Everything in the movie that happened, happened within 500 meters of everything else,” he said. “The barber’s shop is round the corner; the hotel Enzo went to for drinks is opposite; the opera is next door. And he never wanted to go anyplace else. He even stopped going to races and never left the country. So, you have to try and build that sense of intense compression into one neighbourhood, making the location that the action is going to take place in as believable and real as possible.”

Mann isn’t the only auteur to criticize conventional biopics in recent months. Christopher Nolan recently bristled at the notion that “Oppenheimer” was a biopic, explaining that he believes nonfiction stories only work cinematically if they can fit into another genre.

“Biopic is something that applies to a film that is not quite registering in a dramatic fashion,” Nolan said. “You don’t talk about ‘Laurence of Arabia’ as a biopic. You don’t talk about ‘Citizen Kane’ as a biopic. It’s an adventure film. It’s a film about somebody’s life. It’s not a useful genre the same way drama is not a useful genre. It doesn’t give you anything to hold onto.”

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