Often imitated, but never duplicated, the legendary Evel Knievel was an American icon of the 60s and 70s and a pioneer for today’s extreme motorsports athletes. Now, with contemporary stunt vehicles, safety regulations and CGI backdrops, Evel Knievel will ride across our screens once again. Ric Roman Waugh is partnering with Exclusive Media Group to direct an adaptation of the Leigh Montville biography of Knievel titled “The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend.” With more than twenty years experience as a stuntman (that include Days of Thunder and Gone in Sixty Seconds) and as writer/director of 2008’s Felon, Waugh possesses the unique ability to provide on-screen mayhem while letting us get to know the man behind the motorcycle. Speaking with Risky Business, Waugh said:
“This is my Walk the Line. Instead of concerts and songs, you’re doing a daredevil guy. But it’s less about the stunts and more about an exploration of a man who let nothing stand in the way of his quest for fame and glory — including his own mortality.”
For more on Waugh and Knievel, hit the jump.
Talking about his fascination with Knievl, Waugh continued:
“What I love about Evel Knievel is I get to do an homage to the action world that I come from, but it’s more about the relevancy of the price of fame and the life that this guy led. His family suffered for it, he suffered for it physically, and yet he became that iconic person that we all admired. What nobody has ever really captured — and maybe it takes an ex-stuntman to understand this — is the sacrifices he made, and the pain. Everybody’s fearless until they get seriously hurt.”
Waugh comes from a pedigree of Hollywood stuntmen and has personal ties to Knievel. His father, Fred Waugh (Minority Report) is not only a stuntman, but was a founder of Stunts Unlimited in the 1970s. Ric Roman Waugh is also a friend of the man who helped set up Knievel’s stunts and hopes to use his intimate knowledge of the industry and the icon to bring a complete story to the screen. With modern technology making it easier to achieve the stunts safely, Waugh’s team is less likely to crash in a catastrophic manner:
“We would always say, ‘We’re not Evel Knievel.’ Meaning that, we all thought he was crazy. But we weren’t doing live stunts, so we were always able to cheat an angle. This guy was doing it for Wide World of Sports, and there’d be 100,000 people sitting in a coliseum. This guy was seriously hurt. Physically damaged to the point where he was never 100 percent again. He was always jumping completely maimed and messed up.”
As for Knievel, a hero to Waugh as a kid, whoever plays the role is going to have to be tough as nails. Waugh’s frontrunners for the lead role include Tom Hardy, Chris Hemsworth and Joel Edgerton, who Waugh thinks resembles Knievel the most. They sound tough, all right. But are they up for the portrayal of a man whose infamous crash at Caesar’s Palace in 1967 left him broken like a rag doll and in a coma for a month? Are they willing to break 433 bones and survive to claim a Guinness World Record (for those of you playing along at home, that’s the equivalent of breaking more than all of the bones in your body…twice)?
While Waugh clearly has the stunt chops to make this a thrilling biopic, he also wants to stress the human side of the seemingly superhuman Evel Knievel:
“He’s one of the most iconic brand names of the last four decades. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, dealing with all the controversy of war and Nixon and all the things of that era, he became Captain America. But there were so many demons behind that man that nobody every really discussed. We’re going to tell the real story of who this guy was and understand why the world fell in love with him.”
For fans of Evel Knievel, old and new alike, I hope this project lets us rediscover and celebrate one of the greatest American icons of all time.