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MGM Buys Obree Biopic

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British cyclist Graeme Obree races in his famous superman position

British cyclist Graeme Obree races in his famous superman position (Image credit: AFP)
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British champion Graeme Obree

British champion Graeme Obree (Image credit: AFP)

Flying Scotsman gets worldwide deal

By Shane Stokes

The film about former world hour record holder and visionary bike builder Graeme Obree will be screened in the US at the end of December thanks to a new distribution deal.

This week MGM confirmed that it acquired worldwide distribution rights to "The Flying Scotsman," a bio-pic about the life of the Scottish time trial specialist. The film stars Trainspotting actor Jonny Lee Miller and is directed by British TV director Douglas Mackinnon.

Obree and Mackinnon were both due to attend a booked-out screening last Sunday at the Inverness Film Festival.

According to, the London-based ContentFilm Intl. sold the film to MGM at the American Film Market, which occurred November 8. The film had previously secured deals for a handful of markets including Italy, Scandinavia, and Portugal, but MGM now has distribution rights for the US and other markets. The film will make its theatrical debut stateside on December 29th, while it is expected that MGM will distribute it directly to TV in the international market.

Obree was one of the most unique and inspirational riders of recent years, stunning the cycling world back in 1993 when he broke Francesco Moser's long-standing hour record on a self-made bike made from a hodgepodge of spare parts and using bearings from a washing machine. Of equal surprise was the position he used, with his arms tucked in under his chest in order to minimize wind resistance. Obree also took the world pursuit title that year and later repeated the feat in 1995.

Obree's record of 51.596km set in Hamar, Norway, only stood a few days before it was beaten by Chris Boardman's 52.270 in the Velodrome du Lac in Bordeaux. The Scot then came back the following year and recorded 52.713km in the same venue, resetting the hour mark. However, his unconventional position and approach irked the UCI, and they banned his aero setup.

Obree only found out about the rule change during the 1994 world track championships when he was disqualified by the officials there. However he rose to the challenge and, using the same lateral thinking, invented the so-called Superman position. This saw his arms fully outstretched ahead of him and appeared to be even faster, helping him to take his second world pursuit title in 1995.

This time the position really caught on, with several riders using it at the Atlanta Olympics and longtime rival Chris Boardman going on to win the world pursuit championship in a new record of 4 minutes and 11.114 seconds. He then went "Superman" once more to set a new hour record of 56.375km in September of that year, showing the benefits of Obree's wind-slicing vision.

Obree had a chance to ride professionally for the Le Groupement squad in 1994 but pulled out, later saying that doping in cycling was a big factor in his decision to remain an amateur. He also struggled with bipolar disorder (aka manic depression), a personal battle which hampered his career but adds to the magnitude of his achievements.

The Flying Scotsman documents Obree's battles on and off the bike, and draws on his excellent autobiography of the same name. The film was beset by financial problems during its making due to the sudden death of a major financier involved with the project, but the news of the MGM deal means that there is now the chance for some or all of the debts to be settled, as well as for the Scotsman's unique story to reach a global audience.

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