Roger Donaldson, director of The World's Fastest Indian , a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy Raoul Butler.
In the late 1960's Burt Munro sets off from Invercargill, New Zealand, to clock his bike at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Burt's motorcycle is a custom modified classic Indian. Based on a true story, Burt overcomes many barriers, including his age, to achieve his lifelong dream of having his ride timed for the world record. That record still stands today.
The main character is lovingly played by Anthony Hopkins. Burt is an eccentric and lovable character. The story is directed by Roger Donaldson who knew the man personally.
"This project has been a passion of mine since I completed a documentary about Burt Munro back in 1972, "Offerings to the God of Speed."...Some would say my obsession with this film matches Burt's obsession with his bike.
Such humble beginnings; the documentary on Burt was made with no money and I was at the beginning of my film-making career. I've learned a lot, and I always thought that I never really did justice to the subject, I guess that's why I became obsessed with making this movie about Burt.
It started out in 1979 before I even made my second feature film (Smash Palace, 1981). I think we've nearly had this movie financed several times already. After I finished my last feature film in the States, I just thought, I've been talking about this movie for so darned long and if I don't make it I might as well admin that I'm never going to make it. So for the last 2 years I rewrote the script and then set about trying to raise the money for it. Gary Hannam - who's been in there from the beginning, and I set out to track down money around the world, and one of the things that really happened and got it off the ground was a Japanese investor, a woman who I had met doing publicity for movies in Japan. My wife, Marliese, kept in contact with her over the years and Megumi asked if I had any scripts that may be suitable for investing in, and I said I just happened to have one here in my back pocket, THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN.
Megumi took the script back to Japan and they said, "we're going to invest in this"; they loved it. They really were just knocked out by it. So once I had their commitment, I had something that I could hang trying to raise the rest of the money on. But it's been a torturous, torturous trip to get there...
Next I got Anthony Hopkins to commit to making the movie. So once I had some real serious casting in place for Burt, then I know I had a movie, if I could get the finances together. And then I also realized that I had the problem that the Bonneville Salt Flats are only available and suitable at a certain time of the year, so unless I did it that year (2004) I'd have to wait at least a year. The chances (in a years time) of it happening really were pretty slim as Tony has many offers. Gary and I realized we would have to start spending our own money.
It was a go movie 3 weeks before production started, having built the bikes, having got a film crew working in Utah, with Gary and I paying the bills. A situation that everybody tells you is not really the greatest place for a filmmaker to be... But in a way I think that I, and Gary too, were so determined that we were going to make this movie. And I think that the fact that we were prepared to spend our own money, and a lot of it, to make it come this far, gave other people a confidence to get involved as well, once they saw the passion that we had for it."
I liked this film. It's an older film, perhaps for an older audience. But you simply can't help but fall in love the the passion of Burt. My favorite scenes are the close ups of Burt's face as he approaches 200 miles an hour. Roger Donaldson does a perfect job of making us forget that we are watching a film but rather going along for the ride on the Worlds Fastest Indian.
Check it out. It opens on Feb 3rd.
(Interview quotes are provided by Magnolia Pictures.)