The anatomy of a feud: Actor and director talk about working together again
It was 22 years ago when Anthony Hopkins and director, Roger Donaldson worked together on The Bounty. After that film wrapped, the two vowed never to work together again.
Their relationship was done; some would say it's because of some major egos, but others would say it just wasn't a good pairing. But after 20 years, that vow was broken in their latest film, The World's Fastest Indian. The movie is based on the true story of Burt Munro (Hopkins), a New Zealand man who built the fastest motorcycle in history.
Roger and Anthony sat down to talk about their time on the set; neither of them had any problems owning up to the feud that took place on The Bounty. Anthony just put it bluntly by saying, ‘Yeah, we didn't get on too well, we had our differences. I was younger then and when you're younger you have bigger ideas for everything.' Roger realized that he ‘may have been a little harsh and a little experienced' as well.
But at a party a few years ago, the two ran into each other. Both of them were very happy to talk again. Anthony joked and said, ‘We must have lunch.' And Roger jokingly said, ‘We must make another movie.' Little did they know what a small conversation could do for their estranged relationship.
Well, they did start to work together on a project about author, Ernest Hemmingway; that film never got off the ground. But Roger had written this script about Burt Munro; ‘I gave it to him, he read it that same day, called me back and said he's in.'
Anthony watched an earlier documentary about Burt which Roger had directed and conducted the interviews for. He found But to be ‘an interesting character,' and what do you know – the failed relationship was back strong.
Watching that documentary, Anthony got a feel for who Burt Munro was; and that feel is very important when he portrayed him on camera. ‘It was necessary to present as close as I could, because I don't look like him. But that was ok, we both have white hair.' It was Burt's demeanor in the documentary that really intrigued Anthony. ‘That's the essence of the guy, he enjoys life, he enjoys the ladies; his passion was his bike. I thought that's a nice guy, there's something really rich in him, he's not afraid of anything.'
Roger took himself back to the early stages of his career. ‘Even before I was thinking of making feature films, this story was in my thoughts.' Roger based the film character on a combination of the many years he spent with Burt. ‘I made a documentary about the guy; I came with him on one of his last times he came to America. In the real person's life, the first time he came over was in 1962, but that was in 1967. But I set the movie in 1962.'
The film was shooting the Speed Week scenes the same week as the real Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Salt Lake City, Utah. But the name Burt Munro still stood large. Roger and the crew at Bonneville worked side by side; ‘We had a track, and they had their track and they were setting their cars down at 400-500 miles an hour. We're over here shooting our movie, and one of their screaming monsters would go racing down in the background. But Burt Munro's name was on the program from last year.'
The accent of Burt's is very unique because of the deep Southern part of New Zealand he is from. Anthony had to study that accent very had to get it down right, but it was more important to study who he was as a person. ‘In that documentary, he would talk sort of funny; but I've got a responsibility to play the guy. Most of his family is still alive and they saw the film, and they loved it. They came on the set, and made me nervous; I asked Roger what he thought they were going to make of it. But they loved it, they enjoyed it, it's making their father famous.'
The World's Fastest Indian is a wonderful story of hope and living out your dreams. And the hope of Anthony and Roger working together again came true. The film based on the life of Ernest Hemmingway, Papa, is most likely never going to get made. But the two old enemies say they're looking for another film to work on again.
Burt Munro broke many speed records throughout the later part of his life, but the record he broke in 1967 at the Bonneville Salt Flats still stands today.
The World's Fastest Indian is in theaters now in New York and Los Angeles; it opens in more cities February 3rd; it's rated PG-13.