If ever there was a motorcycle racing story with the kind of drama that even people not already into bikes or racing could enjoy, it’s Mike “The Bike” Hailwood’s magnificent 1978 Isle of Man comeback race. Now, well-known Australian actor and gearhead Eric Bana is writing, co-directing, and starring in a feature film that will bring this tale to life.
People love a good underdog story almost as much as they love a good redemption story. Hailwood’s legendary comeback is a bit of both. Steve Wynne, who set all the wheels in motion to get the Ducati 900TT1 that Hailwood rode, related the entire story in detail for Motorcycle Classics, and it’s well worth your time.
“A couple of months after the '77 TT, we went to Silverstone for Roger Nicholls to ride in the TT F1 support race at the British GP. In the paddock there I was introduced to Mike Hailwood, who was visiting Britain from New Zealand, where he'd been living since retiring from Formula 1 car racing after his 1974 smash at the Nürburgring,” Wynne told Sir Alan Cathcart at Motorcycle Classics.
“He sees the Ducati, slings his leg over it, and says "This is the kind of old fashioned bike I understand—wouldn't mind doing another TT on this!" Half-jokingly, I say "Why don't you?!" and with just a few words and a hand shake, the deal is done, for a paltry, completely nominal rider's fee of £1000. [For comparison, that’s £5,774.95 in 2020 money, or about US $7,467.] I used to think it was even less, but I just discovered our single-sheet contract, complete with Mike's witticisms scrawled on it, in a drawer!” he continued.
“Essentially Mike just wanted to have an enjoyable ride back in the Island he loved racing in—his plan was originally to ride under an assumed name, thinking nobody would realize it was him. Some hope!”
Flash forward to 2020, and both Pauline Hailwood (Mike’s widow) and their son David said that they’re excited about the prospect.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Eric Bana and Robert Connolly have taken Mike’s story to adapt into a feature film about his historic ‘comeback’ race win. We are delighted that Mike will be depicted by Eric Bana, an actor with an immense passion and knowledge of motorsports, Mike’s career, and a rider himself,” the Hailwoods wrote in a statement.
Bana’s directorial debut, Love The Beast—a documentary that largely starred Bana’s lifelong obsession, a 1974 Ford Falcon XB hardtop he’d purchased as a teenager—was exquisite. If he and Connolly bring that kind of passion to this Hailwood biopic, it will be one amazing movie.