The Movie Waffler THE RACER Director Kieron J. Walsh’s Top 5 Sporting Movie Influences | The Movie Waffler

THE RACER Director Kieron J. Walsh’s Top 5 Sporting Movie Influences

the racer
The director of the acclaimed cycling drama on his favourite sporting movies.

Set in the high-intensity world of Le Tour de France, director Kieron J.Walsh’s The Racer ramps up the tension as its riders sprint for the finish line.

During the controversial Irish leg of the 1998 tour we find cyclist Dom Chabol (Louis Talpe) dropped from the team he has dedicated his life to. Team masseur and best friend Sonny (Iain Glen, Game of Thrones), who helped keep Dom at peak performance through illegal blood doping, fails to reassure him about his future. However a chance liaison with Lynn (Tara Lee, The Fall), a young Irish doctor, softens the blow and Dom starts to accept - and even enjoy - the idea of civilian life. But just as he gears up to head home, another teammate is knocked off the Tour and Dom is thrown back into the saddle. Now with the years of doping having taken a toll on his body, the racer may pay the ultimate price for a final shot at the glory that has eluded him his entire career…

To celebrate the release of The Racer, sprinting into UK cinemas and on streaming platforms from 18th December, director Kieron J. Walsh has broken down the top five sporting movie influences on his intense new film.

Breaking Away

Breaking Away (1979)
There aren't many cycling films really, there's a handful. And I remember the first one that I ever saw was called Breaking Away. It was an American film that British director Peter Yates did. And it was really about college kids who were kind of no-hopers, but they decided to enter a cycling race at the end of the year, they were the ones least expected to win but you really got to know them. And that racing sequence, it was a long time ago in the late '70s when it was made, but the cycling sequence at the end, shot before they had drones or GoPros or anything like that, was really quite effective and still stands up. It’s really quite effective still; you're right in there with these youngsters as they're powering around a track.

Raging Bull

Raging Bull (1980)
With regards to sports movies, I think probably the greatest sports movie that was ever made is Raging Bull. And it's not just that it's a sports movie, because I wouldn't describe it strictly as a sports movie. But it is a character study about a guy who's a boxer, but he does more fighting outside of the ring than he does in the ring. He fights with his wife, he fights with his brother, he fights with everybody. Anybody who wants to fight, he'll fight them, right? And he does fight in the ring as well. But it's that his whole life is fighting, you know, he even looks in the mirror, and he wants to fight himself, which is really what the film is about. And I found that really fascinating. And I think that will definitely link with The Racer because The Racer is not necessarily just about cycling, it's about a guy who is at a crossroads in his life, and doesn't know what he's going to do next. He's kind of in a panic and you see that he has nothing other than cycling. He says, 'Without a bike, I'm a nothing, I'm nothing' and I think Raging Bull, he's the same. If he wasn't a boxer, he would just be a bum. And there's some real poetry and real beauty in Raging Bull, which I really appreciate. And the use of music, it's a stylised version of boxing. It's not shot like boxing you see on the television. And I would hope that's the same with The Racer, that the cycling sequences are not like what you see when you watch the Tour de France, or where you watch the Giro d'Italia. When you watch cycling on TV, you don't see it shot like we shot it. So Raging Bull would definitely have to be an influence on The Racer.


Rush (2013)
Rush is a film that is set in the world of motor racing but really it's about two characters who are so opposite and the competition between the two of them. But what was really great about that film I thought, was you really did feel like you were in the seat with these guys from the racing scenes. And the detail that went into the engines and the pistons and the pedals and every aspect of the engine. Bikes don't have as many details as that, but we try to get in and show gears being changed and chains being ratcheted, and these little details were really important for The Racer, and that aspect of the film was definitely influenced by Rush. Rush is also about the personal lives of these guys and The Racer is about the personal life of these cyclists.

The Wrestler

The Wrestler (2008)
The Wrestler is another film that I was pretty fascinated by. It’s a story about a man who has passed his sell-by-date, who is finished, and he has to come back because he's got no money. Our film starts with somebody who's coming towards the end of his career but has made no provision at all for a life outside cycling. And he's a pathetic character in The Wrestler. It's an amazing performance from Mickey Rourke, and his character is somebody that you think is quite pathetic, but you just love him. You really feel sorry for him. And I wanted to try and do that with Dom. I think Louis Talpe’s face helps that because he's so sympathetic. The Wrestler is a grittier kind of film than ours, the end of the film has little or no hope. I would like to leave a little bit of hope and that our character, Dom, learned a little bit about himself by the time he gets to the end of The Racer.

Slaying the Badger

Slaying the Badger (2014)
When you're talking about sports films, when you're talking about cycling films, they are few and far between but Stephen Frears made one, a sort of dramatic version of  the Lance Armstrong story called The Program. It wasn't entirely successful but it had its moments. And so I obviously watched that a couple of times. But what were more influential really were some of the documentaries about cycling. There's one in particular, which is made for the sports channel ESPN called Slaying the Badger and it tells the story of Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault. It was the first time an American (LeMond) had come over to France to try and be in Hinault’s team. Hinault was the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France, there hasn't been a Frenchman who has won the Tour de France since 1986, and he was the one. So LeMond came over and he joined the team, and their rivalry... it was just unbelievable. It's an hour and a half, and it was made for television, but it's just fascinating. There are lots of really good documentaries about cycling, but not many good feature films. I was really looking at character films that had a character study aspect to them.


Vertigo Releasing presents The Racer in UK cinemas and on streaming platforms (iTunes: from 18th December.