- 22 Mar 06
He directed a young Tom Cruise in Cocktail and inadvertently unleashed 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' on an unsuspecting world. For his latest project director Roger Donaldson returns to his roots in the antipodes words.
Blame Roger Donaldson. Driving to the set of Cocktail, where he was directing the younger, less creepier Tom Cruise, the Australian born director would happen upon Bobby Mc Ferrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.
“It had been released as a single, but it hadn’t done any business,” Mr. Donaldson recalls. “I heard it and thought it would be perfect for the film. And suddenly it was everywhere. Sorry about that. But Cocktail was one of those films. I still see guys sliding bottles of ketchup to each other and I always feel like saying ‘I made that film’.”
Having spent many years directing big-budget Hollywood glossies such as Species, Dante’s Peak and The Recruit, Donaldson has returned to New Zealand (his home since he emigrated there in 1965) for his latest, long-cherished project.
The World’s Fastest Indian tells the unlikely true story of Bert Munro, an old codger with a yen for motorbikes of the 1920s. Following decades of tinkering, Munro would set an improbable land speed record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 riding on an old Indian model with bits of door-hinges and jam-jars soldiered on.
“I’ve always been interested in old buggers,” explains the director. “Long before I became one myself even. They’re such single minded fun to be around and I wanted to make a movie that would celebrate nostalgia for your dad or grandfather and get off your butt and do stuff.”
Sure enough, The World’s Fastest Indian evokes the same teary masculinity as David Lynch’s The Straight Story. It’s delightfully crotchety hero, played with appropriate eccentricity by Sir Anthony Hopkins, proves a loveable rogue and unlikely sporting underdog.
“I just wanted this movie to be different and make you think about this character,” Roger tells me. “A movie where you really get involved. It took me a long time to perfect the script and then it became a real cause. I had made The Bounty with Anthony a few years before and was nervous about working with him again as I recall he was difficult. But this was a pleasurable experience. We’re both of us at an age when we’re interested in our fathers.”
Taking great care over the period bikes and minute details of interest to speed freaks, Roger has been doubly thrilled by their responses.
“They sit there expressing admiration for the authenticity and then it gets them crying. That’s been great to see. Men are as emotional as women. We just don’t wear our hearts on our sleeves. So it’s been a pleasure to watch the blokes reaching for the tissues for a change.”