July 24, 2013 at 9:33 AM ET
Director Ron Howard's latest foray into filmmaking, "Rush," takes him into the serious, competitive world of Formula One racing — specifically the rivalry between racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, which hit its apex when Lauda was seriously injured in a fiery crash during a 1976 race.
Howard and Lauda, now 64, joined TODAY's Andrea Canning near where "Rush" was filmed in Germany, even revisiting the track where the accident happened. Said the Austrian-born Lauda, he was trapped in the car for 55 seconds, surrounded by temperatures that got up to 850 degrees. "I was lucky to get away with it," he added.
But not unscathed; asked by Canning to show his injuries he took off his baseball cap to reveal his scarred, hairless scalp and pointed to where he'd had several operations. "Fortunately, my eyesight was never damaged," he said.
Howard has extensive experience working around fire on set, thanks to his 1991 film "Backdraft." But he said recreating the crash was a different challenge that gave the crew pause. In the end, he said, "It's one of the most authentic things in the whole movie."
But the thing is, the film stars Chris Hemsworth as Hunt (who died in 1993) — and the fact is when the very-fit young actor is the topic of conversation, it's hard for the conversation not to wander into a discussion of his, um, assets. Canning asked specifically about Hemsworth's "butt shots," which got Howard and Lauda chuckling.
"The man is fit, what can I tell you?" said Howard.
"Rush" opens in theaters on Sept. 27.