‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ (2006) is one of the movies Anthony Hopkins delighted in making – he said “I’ve done some good films..one of my favourites was working with Roger Donaldson (director) on ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. That was fun and seems to be quite popular”.
It is an inspiring, uplifting film based on the amazing true story of one mans, Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) dogged pursuit of his life long dream to break the world land-speed record on a motorcycle. Set in a small town in New Zealand in the 1960s, the movie has a charming old-fashioned feel, almost an innocence which gives little hint of a movie about a speed demon, although slow to start, the film gains momentum right through to its’ triumphant conclusion. Anthony Hopkins plays Burt Munro, who in fact set numerous land-speed records for motorcycles with engines less than 1000 cc in the 1950s and 60s. This is a heartwarming, adventure movie that entertains everyone, especially seasoned Hopkins fans and boys who like motorbikes and speed. Hopkins portrayal of Munro is a character study in itself, for which Anthony Hopkins is well known for his skill at ‘getting into character’. Munro, a stubborn old coot of a man, with unkempt hair, engine grease under his fingernails and a convincing Kiwi accent – far removed from the elegant, well-spoken Hopkins we associate the actor with in other roles, such as the butler in ‘Remains of The Day’, the wealthy aeronautics engineer in ‘Fracture’ or the dignified doctor in ‘Elephant Man’. Anthony Hopkins performance is well-rounded, embodying the heart and soul of Burt Munro. Beyond the cantankerous old man, Hopkins portrays Burt’s warmth, naivety and direct friendliness for which he is loved in his community as well as being known for having the fastest motorbike in Australia and New Zealand. His neighbours knew him better for his obsession with revving his motorcycle in the early hours of the morning and his unkempt grass.
Watch this trailer of ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ movie
The movie is not just about the final destination but also the journey along the way. Burt Munro befriends the young lad next door and lets him help with customising the old 1920s Indian motorcycle with which Munro hopes to ride in Bonneville in Utah to compete for the world land-speed record. After many years of tinkering with the bike, each time making it go faster, by modification after modification, Burt finally decides, after a health scare with his old ticker to go to Bonneville and follow his dream. With his irrepressible Kiwi spirit he raises some money by mortgaging his home, builds a trailer for the bike and sets sail for America on a shoe string budget, waiving goodbye to his community with good wishes from all, including a financial donation from the local bikers who are rooting for him.
The journey to Utah is peppered with humour, as Burt Munro from Invercargill, New Zealand makes his journey with his Indian motorcycle on its’ rickety home-made trailer, through big cities in America to the rough, open terrain of Utah, the home of the American Indian. Munro meets various characters along the way, Tina (Chris Williams) a transvestite motel receptionist who is so endeared by Burt’s charm and friendliness, Fernando – a used car salesman (Paul Rodriguez), Ada (Diane Ladd) an ageing widow who becomes his lover, a native Indian and an Air Force pilot on leave. All these people help him reach Utah when all the odds seem against that happening as Burt comes up against all sorts of hurdles. The characters in the support roles keep the movie fresh and inject some funny moments into this film that Anthony Hopkins loved making.
The location filming of ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ at the Salt Flats, Bonneville is superb and the speed racing shots are stunning. However, Burt is there but there are yet more obstacles for him to overcome. The judges are not impressed that Munro has not even registered himself to compete and even less impressed with his creaking, spluttering old motorcycle with makeshift bald tyres and no brakes. The judges have health and safety issues with Munro’s attire – lack of protection against fire, the bureaucracy is endless and there is considerable doubt as to whether he will be allowed to enter the competition. But Burt Munro wouldn’t take no for an answer and through his charm and engaging friendliness with the other competitors; Burt wins everyone over and is allowed to qualify for entry. Throughout this part of the film you can feel yourself rooting for Burt Munro and his dream – it’s one of those salt of the earth stories, made even more poignant as it is based on a real life story and legend.
The finale is triumphant, reaching over 200 mph on his old Indian motorcycle, despite severe burns to his leg from the exhaust. Yet his goal has been achieved of setting the world land-speed record.
It’s never too late for the ride of your life! A real feel-good movie, with brilliant acting and directing. Roger Donaldson wrote and directed ‘The World’s Fastest Indian‘ movie, having worked on it for over 20 years before filming started on the movie and had previously directed a short television documentary about Munro called ‘Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed’ in 1971. Many of the props used for filming were actually owned by Munro, including all the exploded pistons and the piston mould that Anthony Hopkins uses for a scene in the film.
Enjoy the ride!
One of the best books about the true story are ‘Legend of Speed: The Burt Munro Story’, by Tim Hanna and if you want to know more about the legendary Indian motorcycles, an excellent recommended read is ‘Indian Motorcycles’ by noted Indian historian Jerry Hatfield, with more than 125 specially commissioned photographs and 25 black and white historical pictures, which capture the seductive power and grace of the great models—the Scout, Chief, and Four, —and recreate the thrill the Indian generates to this day.
You can buy the movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian‘ and books in our store, as well as search for any other Anthony Hopkins movie in our stores.
Look inside this gorgeous Indian Motorcycles Book with it’s superb photography this is a real enthuisiasts collectible.
More about Burt Munro