02 January 2007

The Flying Scotsman

Still no word on a release date--it was supposed to be out on December 29, but is now in financial review again. It's had mixed reviews since its debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival in the fall. I'm happy they picked Jonny Lee Miller to play Graeme Obree. In addition to the fact that I think he's a pretty good actor and easy on the eyes, he's actually athletic and most likely brings credibility to the role. In addition to 'The Flying Scotsman', Miller is also currently working on a movie about the story of the London Marathon, surprisingly called 'Marathon'.


From the Jonny Lee Miller fansite:

SYNOPSIS

The inspiring real-life story of one of Scotland's greatest sporting heroes.

In 1992, Briton Chris Boardman shocked the cycling world when he won a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics. It was well known that Britain simply wasn’t capable of producing first-class cyclists, yet Boardman wiped the floor with the competition.

Unemployed Scot, Graeme Obree (Jonny Lee Miller) was just as amazed at Boardman’s success. After all, he had occasionally beaten Boardman. With no prospect of a job, a young baby to feed and a mortgage dragging him ever deeper into debt, Obree - at 27, an old man in cycling terms – decided to have one last attempt to make a living from the sport, spurred on by his friend Malky McGovern (Billy Boyd) and wife Anne (Laura Fraser).

With no money, no sponsor and no backer, Obree decided to build his own bike. Using the boatshed of his friend and confidante, Rev. Douglas Baxter (Brian Cox), Graeme used metal he found in the gutter, bits of an old lock, tubing from a kid’s BMX bike and a cannibalised washing machine. Despite having no technical training, he invented a revolutionary riding position which looked like a downhill skier – by reversing and minimizing the size of the handle bars. He was laughed at wherever he went but had significantly improved the rider’s aerodynamics.

The laughter grew louder when Obree announced that he would make an attempt on cycling’s equivalent of the four-minute mile - The One Hour Record. Unbroken for 10 years, nobody else in the cycling world even dared try it. Whereas Boardman trained with computer-control-led isometric equipment and a support team of bike-builders, pacers, coaches and sponsors, financially-strapped Obree had nobody to help him. He couldn’t even afford a phone....

16 August 2006
JONNY'S NO.1 IN RACY ROLE
Daily Record
Beverley Lyons
JONNY LEE MILLER is so fit after playing ex-cycling champ Graeme Obree that he could compete for real - says the man who knows. Obree's rise to fame and subsequent health problems are told in new film The Flying Scotsman. At its premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival yesterday, Obree said: "Jonny is an exceptional athlete.
"He's more of a runner than a cyclist but I'm sure he'd give me a good run for my money in a biathlon."

Graeme also appears in the biopic - as Miller's body double. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot him as his legs are skinnier than the actor's.

Miller, BAFTA members and a posse of Scots media buffs headed to the capital's Cargo bar for the after-premiere party - but it wasn't to everyone's taste. VIPs had to queue on the terrace for "burgers like the type you get from a van". One showbiz luvvie was heard to moan: "You wouldn't get this in Hollywood."

Edinburgh Festival: The Flying Scotsman
The Herald
MILES FIELDER August 14 2006

The good news, given this film's troubled production, is The Flying Scotsman is a winner. Just as the protagonist of this sports biopic, Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree, had to overcome personal and professional obstacles in order to win the World Cycling Championships twice, so too the film's debuting director Douglas Mackinnon had to wrangle with various financing problems in order to finish his film. It's to Mackinnon and his cast and crew's credit that they managed that, and moreover that the result is a solid piece of film-making and a genuine crowd-pleaser.
Obree, for those who don't know, was an amateur enthusiast who in 1993 broke the world one-hour cycling record. Incredible enough as that athletic feat was, Obree, who ran a failing bike shop in Prestwick and subsequently paid the bills and supported his family working as a cycle courier in Glasgow, achieved it riding a race bike that he designed and built himself – with parts cannibalised from his washing machine. Old Faithful, as Obree called the bike, allowed the cyclist to adopt a new, more aerodynamic riding posture and thus shave off those few crucial seconds from each lap around the velodrome. But Old Faithful brought its designer into conflict with the World Cycling Federation, whose board members didn't appreciate the lack of commercial opportunities it presented (i.e. it couldn't be mass-produced and sold to the public) and went to great lengths to ban Obree from participating in championships.

Mackinnon's film dramatises this underdog story, but it also brings an involving personal dimension. Obree overcame the physical challenges of this gruelling sport and the obstacles placed in his way. But what proved to be his undoing were his personal demons. Haunted by bullying he suffered as a child at school, as an adult Obree suffered from crippling bouts of depression (there's a nicely realised scene in which Obree hallucinates that the bullies' full-grown ringleader pays him a deeply creepy home visit). It's these details that lift the film above the ranks of pedestrian biopic.
Otherwise, The Flying Scotsman is rousing and often very funny. As Obree's eccentric associate Baxter, Brian Cox generates the lion's share of the laughs. Billy Boyd and Laura Fraser, playing Obree's pal/manager and his wife, provide sterling support, and Jonny Lee Miller brings grit (and a fine pair of legs) to the role, crossing the finishing line a winning leading man.

The good news, given this film's troubled production, is The Flying Scotsman is a winner. Just as the protagonist of this sports biopic, Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree, had to overcome personal and professional obstacles in order to win the World Cycling Championships twice, so too the film's debuting director Douglas Mackinnon had to wrangle with various financing problems in order to finish his film. It's to Mackinnon and his cast and crew's credit that they managed that, and moreover that the result is a solid piece of film-making and a genuine crowd-pleaser.
Obree, for those who don't know, was an amateur enthusiast who in 1993 broke the world one-hour cycling record. Incredible enough as that athletic feat was, Obree, who ran a failing bike shop in Prestwick and subsequently paid the bills and supported his family working as a cycle courier in Glasgow, achieved it riding a race bike that he designed and built himself – with parts cannibalised from his washing machine. Old Faithful, as Obree called the bike, allowed the cyclist to adopt a new, more aerodynamic riding posture and thus shave off those few crucial seconds from each lap around the velodrome. But Old Faithful brought its designer into conflict with the World Cycling Federation, whose board members didn't appreciate the lack of commercial opportunities it presented (i.e. it couldn't be mass-produced and sold to the public) and went to great lengths to ban Obree from participating in championships.

Mackinnon's film dramatises this underdog story, but it also brings an involving personal dimension. Obree overcame the physical challenges of this gruelling sport and the obstacles placed in his way. But what proved to be his undoing were his personal demons. Haunted by bullying he suffered as a child at school, as an adult Obree suffered from crippling bouts of depression (there's a nicely realised scene in which Obree hallucinates that the bullies' full-grown ringleader pays him a deeply creepy home visit). It's these details that lift the film above the ranks of pedestrian biopic.

Otherwise, The Flying Scotsman is rousing and often very funny. As Obree's eccentric associate Baxter, Brian Cox generates the lion's share of the laughs. Billy Boyd and Laura Fraser, playing Obree's pal/manager and his wife, provide sterling support, and Jonny Lee Miller brings grit (and a fine pair of legs) to the role, crossing the finishing line a winning leading man.


Mackinnon's movie completes cycle
GARETH EDWARDS (gedwards@edinburghnews.com)
Scotsman.com

IT is an incredible story of determination to succeed against the odds, to push forward all the way to the finish line no matter what obstacles were put in the way.
Years of work, problems with funding, gruelling preparations, injuries, scandals, all of these dogged the task, but despite that no one involved gave up hope. And now as The Flying Scotsman prepares to get its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the end could finally be in sight.

For director Douglas Mackinnon, the process of bringing Graeme Obree's stirring success-story to the screen bears an uncanny resemblance to the struggles of the film's protagonist.

Despite being an amateur cyclist, lacking the funding and support of professionals, despite suffering bad falls early in his career and despite making his own bike out of parts of his washing machine, Obree stunned the cycling world in 1993. On "Old Faithful" and with his own unique cycling position, the tuck, Obree broke the world hour distance record, held for nine years by Francesco Moser. The feat is even more incredible as he had initially failed, but despite recommendations that he should rest for a few weeks, tried for the record again the next day and succeeded.

In bringing his story to the big screen with his first feature film, 45-year-old Mackinnon had to show similar strength of character. He was just weeks away from the original start of shooting on the film four years ago, when one of its main backers tragically died and the plug was pulled. It was three years before the funding was again in place and shooting was able to start, with Jonny Lee Miller in the title role and the crew filming at locations around Scotland and at velodromes in Germany. After the long struggle to get the shoot underway, Mackinnon then almost saw the whole thing collapse in front of him on the first day of shooting the main cycling sections of the film.

"Jonny had a really bad crash on his bike," he says. "You have to understand that these bikes have no brakes and the riders are strapped in, so there's only two ways of coming off them - you are either caught or you fall and Jonny fell. He was going really fast and everyone there, about 300 people, just gasped and went silent, apart from Graeme. He just said 'Now you're a real cyclist' ."

Fortunately for all concerned the actor was OK - "He had a really nasty wound on his leg, but he was actually quite proud of it" - and the shoot continued. Despite now being 40 years old, Obree, a technical advisor on the film, is still competing and winning regularly, and also did some stunt double work during the cycling shoots - "he's still incredibly fit" revealed Mackinnon.

But there was one moment that he didn't want to relive again. "He had a few nasty falls in his time and we wanted to show that, so we got in a stuntman," recalls Mackinnon. "Unfortunately there's no real way to fake something like that, so we had to have him fall quite badly. It looked horrible, but he was fine."

Following the gruelling shoot, the film was again hit by financial problems after the production company behind the project, Mel Films Limited, went in to administration, with many of the cast and crew still owed wages. The director managed to secure another £450,000 to finish post-production on the movie, but it has still to find a distributor. Despite this Mackinnon has never given up and is delighted with the support the Film Festival has shown for the movie.

"Shane Danielsen actually saw the finished film before I did," he says. "I had seen it all at various stages, but it had only just been put together when he arranged a screening. He loved it though, and obviously it's a fantastic sign of support from the Film Festival to choose us as the opening night film."

That support may lead to the film festival's gala event being disrupted by protests from cast and crew members still owed payment for their part in the film. But while Mackinnon, who himself is owed money from the production, has great sympathy for them, he believes they would be more sensible to stay away.

"The only way we can get the money back is for this film to be a success, so anything that could harm the chances of that would be counter-productive," he says.

"It's really hard for these guys, because they worked for a long time on the project, and Graeme Obree and I are still owed money, but there is no pot of gold to pay everyone.

"But Edinburgh is one of the best places in the world to find a distributor, so I am very hopeful. Last year Tsotsi came with no distributor and went on to get a release and win an Oscar, so I'd be happy with half that success!"

After his record success, Obree went on to win a host of awards, including the individual pursuit World Championship in 1993 and 1995, despite having the tuck and another cycling position, the superman, banned by governing bodies. If The Flying Scotsman goes on to pick up awards and recoup its costs, it would be a triumph against the odds fitting of the great man himself.


'Flying Scotsman' defies gravity
Variety

By ADAM DAWTREYWHEN THE EDINBURGH INTL. FILM FESTIVAL opens Aug. 14 with the world premiere of Douglas Mackinnon's debut movie "The Flying Scotsman," it will mark the climax of an extraordinary odyssey for the filmmakers.
What makes "The Flying Scotsman" unusual is not the 12 years it took to get made, nor the number of times the project collapsed and was resurrected before the cameras finally rolled last year.

No, what's remarkable is that the film, with a paper budget of $11 million, seems to have been made out of thin air, with no visible financing in place and no obvious producer (despite the 10 named in the credits). This is a movie that never got greenlit, never had a completion bond, never closed its finance, went into administration (the U.K. equivalent of Chapter 11) during post-production and still hasn't paid half its bills.

"It was a blooding beyond bloody for me," says Mackinnon. "Everyone tells me it's the worst scenario in terms of the politics and the money that they've ever come across."

"In hindsight, everyone was completely bonkers," says one industry veteran who was centrally involved in the project, but requests anonymity to spare his professional blushes. Yet the word from those who have had a sneak preview is that the movie might, just might, deliver on the crowd-pleasing, heart-warming promise that led one participant to pitch it as " 'Shine' on a bike." Certainly, Edinburgh topper Shane Danielsen has made a big statement of faith by opening his festival with the film.

"The Flying Scotsman" is the true story of Graham Obree, the amateur Scottish cyclist who built his own bike out of washing machine parts and rode it to gold at the world championships, despite battling mental illness and hostility from the sport's authorities. This classic triumph-from-adversity story attracted screenwriter Simon Rose in 1994. He hooked up with "Rob Roy" producer Peter Broughan, with Mackinnon eventually coming aboard to direct and Jonny Lee Miller to play Obree. In 2002, the death of a key American investor caused the project to collapse just days before it was due to start shooting. It took three years to pull it back together again. By then, Broughan had been joined by Damita Nikapota, a mysterious trans-Atlantic producer who sometimes used the pseudonym Sean Murphy. While negotiating with financiers, Nikapota secured pre-production cash flow from specialist outfit Freewheel, headed by Sara Giles. Broughan fell out spectacularly with Mackinnon and tried to fire him, but Mackinnon refused to walk and cameras rolled last July. It's not unusual for indie pics to start lensing before all the paperwork is finished. But in this case, although there seemed to be financing proposals on the table, the sums never quite added up.

"It was only during editing that it became blatantly obvious the producers couldn't close the financing," Giles says. Everyone involved, from Obree himself to Strathclyde Police, was owed money, but there was nothing in the pot. Giles decided the only way the creditors, including herself, would stand any chance of being repaid was to finish the film. That meant taking the production company into administration, and putting up more of her own money. Her eventual cash outlay topped $4 million.

"I inadvertently became the adoptive mother of the film," Giles says. "I want people to understand that I was not the financier who had let everyone down. I'm the single largest creditor. Everyone is owed something, but the only person who has not been paid a penny is me."

"It's only because of Sarah's faith in the film and her risk-taking that we're here today," testifies Mackinnon, who edited at night while shooting a TV show by day to pay his bills. All hopes now rest on how the film plays at its world premiere. A new sales agent will be announced imminently, and any distribution deals will be used to repay the debts. Now that really would be a triumph from adversity to rival Obree's own remarkable story.

MILLER DOESN'T HAVE THE LEGS FOR ACTING ROLE
ContactMusic.com

JONNY LEE MILLER's intensive training regime failed to prepare him for his role as cycling legend GRAEME OBREE in biopic THE FLYING SCOTSMAN, and the real life Obree was eventually brought in as a stunt double.

MILLER was thrilled to play the hero who rode a bike made out of washing machine parts to break the world hour-record in the 1990s, but was left embarrassed when his leg muscles didn't make the grade.

Obree says, "I'm the legs in the movie but Jonny did well.

"The film was a great experience and the scale of the thing was amazing. It's great to have a film made about your life and it's going to look really good."

2 comments:

Mr Carter said...

it would be incredible to get that movie here in calgary.

who do i phone?

Reid Dalgleish said...

Not sure. I haven't been able to find out any information about an alternative release date. It is being bankrolled by MGM, though.