Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — at least until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
In his early career, feature film director Roger Donaldson put himself in risky positions while filming adventure documentaries, including The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary. With his friend Ian Mune, he created Winners & Losers, a landmark series of dramas based on stories by New Zealand writers, which in turn inspired the pair to adapt CK Stead’s novel Smith’s Dream into feature film Sleeping Dogs. The major turning point in Donaldson’s career was his feature Smash Palace, which screened at Cannes and earned rave reviews. Since Smash Palace, Donaldson has thrived in Hollywood, working with notable actors including Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and Pierce Brosnan. He returned to New Zealand to make the Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins.
Roger Donaldson is notable for spearheading the New Zealand film renaissance with Sleeping Dogs (1977). He has been busy directing in Hollywood for much of the period since. Donaldson's first Kiwi story since acclaimed drama Smash Palace (1981) was Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) — the most successful New Zealand film on home soil until the arrival of Taika Waititi's Boy in 2010.