Things been slow for you lately? Try picking up the pace with “The World’s Fastest Indian,” a new Anthony Hopkins film.
The movie explores the journey of a New Zealand man, Burt Munro, who dreams of making his classic Indian motorcycle the fastest bike on earth. Munro devotes his life to perfecting his motorcycle by hand. He spends day and night in his little shed in Invercargill, New Zealand, melting metal and improving the parts. To test the speed, he rides his Indian on the sand at a beach close to his home. But his dream is to race it on the salt flats of Bonneville, Utah, where men and their machines convene to compete each year.
When the reality of Munro’s mortality hits him–he is diagnosed with angina and has a weak prostate–he decides he must live out his life’s dream. No one believes in him except his confidant, a young boy who lives next door, who tells Munro that everyone doubts he will break the record speed. But Munro is not dissuaded.
Though he is old and poor, he secures the funds to go to America to prove his motorcycle the fastest in the world. And even when all odds are against him–including plenty of finger-nail-biting setbacks–Munro manages to bed two older blonde ladies, make friends with a cross-dresser, and reach his destination: Bonneville, Utah. The only problem: he forgot to register for the race and is told he can’t participate. Once again, this does not get him down and he attempts to charm the authorities with wit and a reckless disregard for the rules.
Though a happy-go-lucky film with no real villains, “The Fastest Indian” exists to engage and inspire audience members to pursue their wildest dreams. Expect to leave the theater on an emotional “go-get-’em” high.
Writer/director, Roger Donaldson was obsessed with Munro’s story for years before he made it into a classic tale of hope, perseverance, and adventure. I had the chance to speak with him and Hopkins when they came to promote the film in Manhattan.
To echo a prevailing theme in the film, I asked Donaldson, who hails from Australia, what his biggest challenge was in life. It was, he said, when he was fired from his job as a paperboy. It seems he had a knack for breaking milk bottles with his newspapers.
“I was completely incensed when I got fired from this job and I was determined I would never ever work for anybody who could ever fire me again,” Donaldson said. “And that’s pretty much how I’ve run my life is to be sort of you know live by my sort of own wits and be sort of running the ship I guess.”
Because of “Indian’s” inspirational message, I asked Hopkins what inspires him in his life and work. His answer? Music.
“In retrospect I wanted to be a musician to escape from what I thought was my limitation in life because I wasn’t a good student,” Hopkins said.
He always played the piano and recently became friends with a composer who helped him learn electric orchestration on the computer. His first composed piece will be performed in San Antonio in May.
Until then, whether or not motorcycles are your thing, “The World’s Fastest Indian” begs us to face our challenges with the speed and precision of Munro’s bike and to never give up on our dreams.