In 2003, Bristish documentarian Mark Neale released the cult classic film "Faster," which explored the world of Grand Prix motorcycle road racing. The film chronicled the ascendance of Italian rider Valentino Rossi as he competed against Italian rival Max Biaggi on the MotoGP circuit.
Now, eight years later, Neale returns with the release of a new film dubbed "Fastest." Shot around the world and narrated by Ewan McGregor, "Fastest" profiles Rossi, now the most dominant rider in the MotoGP world, at a pivotal moment in his career. Chasing his ninth World Championship title, Rossi battles new competition, career-threatening injuries and ultimately, an amazing comeback.
Recently, ESPN had the chance to catch up with "Fastest" producer Paul Taublieb to discuss the highly anticipated sequel.
ESPN.com: Obviously "Faster" was a very popular and successful movie. What prompted the decision to do this sequel?
Taublieb: It started out being about Rossi, who has eight premier class championships, going for his ninth premier class championship, which would be a record (beating Giacomo Agostini). That was going to be our main theme for the movie except that he broke his leg in a horrific crash -- a potentially career ending crash. The second part of the story was that his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, was his biggest rival. 'Teammates' is not exactly an accurate term, as you know.
We know that.
So the main story became Rossi coming back from an injury, which he does in typical Rossi fashion, where he kind of overshadows Lorenzo (who then goes on to win the championship.) Then he moves on to join the Ducati team and you have these two Italian entities coming together. The movie as a whole has a much darker tone than "Faster." It talks about the sacrifice the riders make. We built it around Rossi's story, and it explores his crashes and why guys crash.
So it's about the real world of MotoGP, and what it's really like behind the scenes.
We have lots of beautiful shots and incredible footage, but it humanizes and talks about the sacrifice and the skill. You meet these guys and you understand that they are sort of fighter pilots on two wheels and when things go wrong, it goes wrong really fast. A lot of the movie is what these guys are going through. We see Alvaro Bautista with a bad shoulder. Ben Spies has a big part in the movie a young rider coming back from an ankle injury, but they are going out and continuing to race.
Were you on site for a lot of the filming?
I went to a few of the races, went to three different locations and it was just an amazing sight: to see the speed and technology and what goes into these things.
Where did you actually get to go?
I went to Valencia, which was unbelievable and a beautiful city and to Le Mans. One thing about the movie that is really interesting, because of the TV coverage, is that every bike has four onboard cameras. They have between forty and fifty other cameras around the track, so they have like two hundred cameras. We went into the library and every one of those cameras goes onto a disk, so we got the best HD shots. The stuff that is in there is just extraordinary.
Did you get to meet Rossi?
Yeah, I did. We rode around for an hour and a half doing the interview and I was sitting in the back seat.
He is charming, delightful, humorous, a little bawdy and very smart. They talk about this in the movie actually, some of the journalists. He comes off as a nice guy, but he's a killer on the track. He's famous for his last lap wins and he's really serious, but he is one of the most charming people I have ever met.
The other thing about the movie is that you got Ewan McGregor to come back and reprise his narration from "Faster." Was it tough to get him to come back?
No, it was easy. Because we had the request from the director Mark Neale, who did "Faster" and came back to do this movie. He really deserves a lot of credit here. He had the original vision and my role as a producer was to make that vision come true and I think add a little bit of a contemporary feeling to it. He had a close relationship with McGregor and McGregor was dying to do it. He loved the first movie and he's a motorcycle fanatic so he was more than happy to do it.
Tell us a little bit about Mark Neale, the director.
He is incredibly talented. I think the one thing that separates Neale from other directors is the depth of knowledge and passion for the subject. When he talks to the riders he can recall any event and a certain past. Because the first movie was so successful and so respected, everybody opens up to him.
How was Dorna (the organizers of MotoGP) to work with?
They're like Nascar with a Spanish accent. They're very tough and very protective of their sport, but the nice thing about them is that they really appreciated what we were doing in making a movie. They said, "We make TV and we run the sport." They loved what happened with "Faster" so they were thrilled with "Fastest." The thing about the movie is that you don't have to be a MotoGP fan to love it. They understand that and of course were very supportive as a partner in the movie with all the archives and all the other footage we got from them.
Obviously you had great access in the pits. Are the teams as secretive about their technology as they seem to be from the outside?
It's like this weird thing where it is secretive and in the open. It's so complex that you can really see it. When the bikes come in from the testing laps, the guys are putting gauges on the tires and the computers are downloading the chips. It's all so high tech that it is just proprietary in a modern way.
So the movie is in theatres right now?
The nice thing about "Fastest" is that we have a theatrical release that is going on right now internationally, because you can deliver the film digitally -- which we could not do with "Faster" in 2002. We have over four hundred theatres across the world, on a rolling basis, which are showing the movie. A major Hollywood studio has also picked up the distribution for the movie for everywhere outside of North America. We have had a smattering of theatrical releases in North America, all of which have been sold out.
When can the American public get their hands on this thing?
You can pre-order now. November 15 is the ship date.
That's on DVD? Is there a plan for a digital release?
Yes. That will be coming up approximately thirty to forty five days later. We also have a company that is going to pick it up and distribute it to retail stores and mass markets.
It all sounds fantastic.
For me, I come from a different world and I was intrigued by it and intrigued by the package we put together to make it happen, but I was really drawn into the sport. These guys are warriors out there and the risks are super high. I have become a hardcore fan. I get up and watch Speed TV to catch all the races live and I go on MotoGP.com all the time.
So we know where to find you next Sunday.
Oh yeah, I will be watching the Valencia race.