In 2003, Mark Gardiner wrote a book about competing in the Isle of Man TT called One Man’
Ten years ago, I quit my job, sold everything I owned and moved to the Isle of Man to see if a completely average motorcyclist could qualify for the TT. That story, a sort of grown-up’s What I Did Last Summer, first appeared on these pages in 2003. I picked up a couple of finisher’s medals in the process, became a freelance writer and dropped one digit off my income. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this path, but strangely I don’t regret it either.
The hubbub had long since died down when I got an e-mail from some guy named Tom who worked in Hollywood. One of my friends is Mark Clayman, who produced The Pursuit of Happyness, he wrote. He’s looking for another story, and I want to introduce you guys.
My wife put Clayman’s film at the top of our Netflix queue. After watching it, we agreed that a) it was great and b) if Clayman thought he could build a film that strong around me, he was delusional.
Still, a moto-journalist never turns down a free meal. Over dinner, Clayman described all the things a film version of my memoir would need. I countered with anecdotes I’d left out of the book or that had happened to other TT racers. Clayman asked me to write the synopsis for a feature film inspired by my story.
I knew that Hollywood would want to amp up the conflict and dramatic tension, but when they asked me if I could rewrite the story so that I won the race, I needed a moment to get latt foam out of my nose and compose myself.
Please, guys, I begged. When you get a screenwriter, he can write that. But if I write it, I can never return to the Island. You’d banish me from my spiritual home.
They eventually backed off on that one. But with each rewrite, the story resembled my life less and less. However, it also started to resemble a decent picture. Fewer and fewer notes came back from the producers, until finally it was done. At first, I breathed a sigh of relief. And then, hearing nothing back from them, I stopped breathing at all. I didn’t think anything paid less than freelance motorcycle journalism until I’d spent a summer writing a film synopsis.
Unable to bear the dramatic tension in my life, I called Clayman. In Hollywood screenwriters have clout, but authors of books are a different story. Most producers would rather take a call from a telemarketer. Still, I got him on the speaker and he said he was getting interest from a couple of production partners, but the key was attaching a star to the picture. When he mentioned Matthew McConaughey, my wife actually laughed out loud. Then he had to take another call.
I wonder, Mary mused, who they’d cast to play me?
My wife is in the Screen Actors’ Guild, and I could see the wheels turning in her head. Could she get that role? Would there be a sex scene? Would she do Matthew McConaughey? Are you kidding? To get this picture made, I’d do him!
But if you ever see Matthew McConaughey’s character win a TT, don’t choke on your popcorn. And give me some credit, eh? I’d never write that.