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THE FLYING SCOTSMAN - A Bumpy Ride to the Big Screen


Writer Simon Rose on Getting His Story to the Big Screen

Unconventional: Jonny Lee Miller cycles his way to success in The Flying Scotsman I can't be the only writer who, after sitting through umpteen appalling movies, has thought, "Surely I can do better." By 1994, I was itching to write a screenplay, but a subject eluded me.  Then I heard about Graeme Obree. This down-at-heel Scot built a revolutionary bicycle from scrap and washing- machine parts and became world champion, only to be banned by the cycling authorities. Instead of giving up, the amazingly determined Obree redesigned his bike and had another go.


I reckoned that if I - no sports enthusiast - found his tale inspiring, others would, too. Britain has so few sporting heroes that this eccentric, whose training food was marmalade sandwiches, should be lionised.

Simon Rose (centre) on the set: 'I've sworn to work only with people I like in future'

Meeting the great man, I was surprised by his stylish sunglasses and CD Walkman. This wasn't my notion of him at all. I needn't have worried; at dinner Graeme first had ice cream ("Gets your taste buds going"), then his meat and veg ("Removes the sugar so your teeth don't rot"). With Obree, nothing was conventional.

Screenwriting guru Bob McKee's Story Structure course seemed inspiring, until I tried applying it. Structure may be important but it isn't everything, Bob. What about characters and dialogue?

I had found my main character, but still had to invent the world around him, managers and mates. Without having met Graeme's wife, I contrived a bantering marital relationship, which bizarrely proved remarkably true to life.

Eventually, I had a first draft. But who would make it? Director Vadim Jean, who I'd met while reporting on his film, Leon the Pig Farmer, introduced me to Paul Brooks, founder of UK film company, Metrodome.

When a much-promised contract hadn't turned up after six months, I assumed Brooks wasn't a serious player. This was the first of many miscalculations; Brooks was later responsible for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which grossed nearly £200 million. Almost three years had gone by now.

Simon Rose's story in full is published in The Daily Telegraph

The Flying Scotsman opens the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Monday