There hasn't been much news lately about Frank Marshall's (“Indiana Jones”, “Bourne” series) plans to make a movie about Lance Armstrong's life.
But there's another bicycling movie in the works. Filmmaker and retired bicycle adventurer Kevin Foster says he has a commitment from the Chinese government for funds to produce a film about his own life.
Why make a movie about Kevin Foster, you ask?
Twenty years ago Foster made headlines by becoming the first person, and an American at that, to ride his bicycle over a thousand miles of what was left of the Great Wall of China. The photo above shows him finishing his journey.
Later, he rode — and/or carried — his bicycle to the highest point in each of the 50 states between 1992 and 1995 and pedaled his bicycle the circumference of Cuba in 1996. A non-bicycling feat, which earned him a place in the Guinness Book, was to travel the entire New York City subway system in just over 26 hours.
That Cuban bicycling adventure, his last, became a book — “Cycling Castro's Country: The Tour de Cuba.” Foster, now 50, was conducting an autograph session of that book in Visalia, California, when he told the Visalia Times-Delta newspaper about the movie.
He said the Chinese government is putting up $25 million to produce the film with the working title “9 Dragon.” He's meeting with others in Hollywood to come up with the another $25 million to meet production goals, and he's already thinking about the cast (he mentions Jake Gyllenhaal in the Foster role and Kathy Bates as his mother).
Apparently Foster knows something of the film business. He was an actor in New York before taking those cycling challenges. A few years ago, he wrote, produced and starred in a movie “Yesterday's Dreams.” Last year he wrote and produced a documentary, “Hollywood on Fire,” about faith and values in the entertainment industry.
After checking his website, Kevin Foster's World, I can see how the Great Wall adventure could make an entertaining movie. He overcame many obstacles to achieve this dream.
Foster writes that he nearly died in an electrocution accident while climbing a tree when he was 8 years old. He has no memory of anything before the 1968 accident. With the support of his mother, he spent years rehabilitating so he could get out of his wheelchair and function normally.
By age 12, Foster was able to ride his bicycle with training wheels. He remembers watching on TV the historic meeting of President Nixon and Chairman Mao Tse-Tung and declaring that he wanted to ride his bicycle to the top of the Great Wall.
Fifteen years later it looked like he had his chance. He had read that skateboarders were allowed on the Great Wall, and he asked someone at the Chinese Consulate in New York City if the government would consider allowing a bicycle.
Approval finally came through and he was ready to go, complete with sponsors, in 1987. Injuries suffered when he and a truck collided postponed the trip for years.
Launching his training again the following year, a group of kids who saw him on his red, white and blue bike called him “Captain America.” It's a nickname that stuck.
He finally started his journey in the Gobi Desert in 1990, the year after the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. He writes in depth about his Great Wall of China journey at his website.
The Los Angeles Times also has an article — “Hitting the Wall” — that was written when Foster returned fresh from his journey 20 years ago.
That 1990 article quotes the book division director at the National Geographic Society about Foster:
“I've never seen a guy as tenacious–every obstacle was thrown in his way and he overcame all of them.”
It may take all that tenacity to push this movie to completion.
Regarding that Armstrong movie: A writer for the Scotland Herald recently interviewed Marshall for a profile that appeared Aug. 4. Marshall was in London on a break from researching “a documentary” about Armstrong's comeback.