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At long last The Flying Scotsman gets a general UK cinema release, breaking out of the film festival circuit. It’s released on 29th June, ready in time for the Tour de France coming to London.
Here’s the official UK poster, hot off the press:
And here’s the MGM trailer:
The Flying Scotsman is directed by British TV director Douglas Mackinnon. Obree â€“ a former bike shop owner â€“ is played by Trainspotting’s Sick Boy, Jonny Lee Miller.
The production company behind the film fell into administration before editing had finished, leaving debts, some to bike trade companies. Impsport, for instance, supplied Â£6000-worth of skinsuits, training jackets, overshoes and mitts but never got paid. Given that product placement in movies is big business - and expensive - Impsport will nevertheless reap the rewards of greater brand exposure. The movie features close-ups of Obree/Miller wearing the Impsport-made world champion jersey and the Lincoln company’s logo can be seen clearly.
Polaris kit is also shown in close-up thanks to the on-screen undressing of Obree’s first sponsor, Mr Armstrong, played by comedy actor Moray Hunter.
However, the company with the greatest exposure in the movie is Specialized. Not only are there product placements - wheels and helmets and velodrome hoardings - there are frequent name-checks, too. It’s Specialized-this and Specialized-that throughout the movie, something that pleased Specialized UK MD Richard Hemington. He was instrumental in helping the real Obree to smash the world hour record, twice, and win the mid-1990s world championship medals.
“I was at both Hour Record successes as well as the world championships when his bicycle was banned,” said Hemington.
A major part of the movie is about Obree’s battles with the UCI. In the film, UCI president Hein Verbruggen is played by Steven Berkhoff, who always does ’sinister’ so well. The UCI is renamed the World Cycling Federation, for reasons obvious to anyone who watches the movie. The UCI portrayal will be enjoyed by those bike companies - such as Mavic - who have had expensive tech run-ins with the Switzerland-based overlord of cycle sport.
If Verbruggen is upset by his portrayal at least he got a starring part. Bike design guru Mike Burrows signed a release form agreeing to his portrayal in the movie but the role was later cut, although Burrows still gets two name checks, both positive.
Richard Hemington also gets a part in the movie but he’s played by actor David Hounslow.
“Originally I was to play myself but they decided they needed a younger face as it was so long since the [record] attempt in 1993,” said Hemington, slimmer and fitter than his on-screen character.
Bike shops feature frequently in the movie, with Smart Cycles being the fictional baddie, brighter and more colourful than the dim and dismal Obree Cycles, shown in the movie as going bust, partly thanks to Obree’s stuggle with bipolar depression.
Many of the period bikes and bike shop clutter in the movie were supplied by Neil McDonald of community bike repair shop Common Wheel of Glasgow.
“We got a phone call from the film production company. They needed things to dress the set and would pay. The production woman came in, looked around, and pointed to the pile of oily rags and dirt and said ‘we’ll buy that, it’s really difficult to recreate’. Most on my pre 1992 bikes went out on hire, and some of my worn in tools. They even wanted my kettle.”
Willy Bain of Bicycle Repair in Glasgow was an extra in the film. He’s one of the cyclists beaten by Obree.
Bain said: “The film is excellent whether or not you are a cyclist but spare a thought for all the businesses who lost a lot of money when MEL Productions went bust. I only lost a few hundred pounds but others lost thousands, and tens of thousands.”
Those businesses which lost money have been promised a payback from DVD sales of the movie.
I was invited to a Soho premiere of the movie last week and can report that itâ€™s a real tear-jerker and non-cyclists will enjoy it just as much as cyclists. There are also plenty of laughs but heaven knows what overseas audiences will make of the heavy Scots accents in a couple of places. Mind you, Trainspotting didn’t seem to be hindered by this.
There are also lots of close-ups of Jonny Miller/Obree as he struggles around the tracks of the world.
The movie’s director, Douglas Mackinnon, told Quickrelease.tv:
“The facial close-ups of Jonny in pain were one of the hardest to get on the budget on the ground that I had. We couldn’t put any vehicle in front of Jonny on the track because of insurance issues, and couldn’t afford to have a rig built at a cost we could afford that would go on the track, so he’s on a standing bike in those shots against green screen.
“But I can tell you that whether or not you believed them, they were real, that’s real pain! Graeme set the bike at his ridiculous gear and Jonny went for it, sometimes twenty minutes at a time, before we started filming him.”
Miller spent a lot of time on the bike before and during the shooting of the movie.
Co-star Brian Cox said: “He cycled for about four hours a day, two in the morning and two in the evening. I would often see him out of the car window when I was driving to the set.â€
Over on BikeBiz.com I’ve long followed the progress of The Flying Scotsman. I knew of its cancellation before any of the contracted actors.
I was really happy when the film was resurrected and last year was happy to report on the film scoring a distribution deal with MGM.
Incidentally, YouTube has footage of the real Graeme Obree smashing the World Hour Record in 1993: