Cast & Crew
On the morning of 28 Feb 1971, famed motorcycle daredevil Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel arrives at California's Ontario Motor Speedway to prepare for his latest stunt of jumping his bike over nineteen automobiles. Nervous, Evel remembers his childhood in Butte, Montana, which he calls a "mean place to grow up": When he is twelve years old, Evel is taken to his first daredevil show by his grandmother and is both horrified and fascinated when two men die during the performance. As an adult, the egotistical Evel is well-known for his daring, charisma and temper. One night, Evel assembles a group of onlookers as he breaks into a sporting goods store and then convinces the responding police officer that he is in pursuit of the criminal. With the unwitting aid of the policeman, Evel breaks open the safe and shares the spoils with the waiting crowd. Back at the speedway, Evel, who is walking with a cane, inspects the jumping ramps with his devoted friend Pete. Complaining about the reliability of the ramps, Evel reminisces about when he first began performing and built his ramps himself: One day, Evel goes to a run-down rodeo featuring faded cowboy star Charlie Kresson to ask the owner, Turquoise Smith, for a job. The genial Charlie is impressed by the cocky youngster, as is Turquoise, who accepts Evel's assurance that he can jump two pickup trucks placed end to end. On the day of Evel's first show, a huge crowd assembles, for which Charlie humbly thanks Evel, telling him how hard it is to draw an audience as one gets older. As Evel paces outside the ring, Charlie enters on a bucking steer and when he is thrown off, he dies from a heart attack. Although he is upset by Charlie's death, Evel greets his new fans and assures them that he is not one of the current crop of rebellious motorcyclists who are giving the sport a bad name. Evel then successfully jumps the two pickup trucks, and when he notices that the crowd reacts most strongly when it appears that he might fail, he realizes that showmanship, as much as skill, will ensure a lasting career. Still brooding about Charlie's death, Evel's thoughts return to the present, and he upbraids his wife Linda for commenting on his nervousness. Yelling that he cannot disappoint 150,000 fans, Evel notes that it does not matter how she feels, as she is only a participant while he is the potential "splatteree." Linda decides to summon Doc Kincaid, Evel's longtime doctor, to look at his aching thigh, which bears a large, open wound from an unhealed break. Evel then recalls his rising career and the increasingly difficult stunts he performs for larger crowds. When Doc arrives at Evel and Linda's speedway suite, he pours alcohol on Evel's wound, dresses it and tells him he will see him in the hospital after the show. Evel yells after him that he will see him instead at the Grand Canyon, as his cherished dream is to jump the wide gorge. Still irritated, Evel turns on Linda, ordering her to increase his security detail so that he has as many bodyguards as does Elvis Presley, whom he both idolizes and resents for his popularity. Furiously demanding his clothes, Evel then remembers his world-famous jump at Caesar's Palace: Emerging from his trailer in his immaculate, trademark white leathers, which he has modeled on Elvis' jumpsuits, Evel greets his fans, especially a pretty blonde who takes his picture. Evel's attempt to jump Caesar's outdoor fountain fails, however, and results in a devastating crash. While he is being carried to an ambulance, Evel is amazed that he is alive and that the blonde is photographing him even more avidly than before. In the hospital, Doc operates on Evel, who has broken all four limbs, as well as his back and pelvis. Despite his injuries, Evel is outraged when Doc tells him that he will never walk again, and to prove him wrong, has Pete take him outside, where he stubbornly rides his motorcycle around the parking lot before crashing against the curb. At the speedway suite, Evel chuckles to himself about how much both Doc and Linda worry about him, and remembers how he met Linda: As a high school student in Butte, Evel spots Linda Hanson and attempts to impress her by performing a wheelie in front of her. Knocked to the ground, Linda is angered by Evel's carelessness. Evel taunts her until she accepts a ride on his bike, however, and soon she is enjoying racing along the streets. Their fun comes to an end when a police car begins to chase them, and after dropping off Linda, Evel attempts to outrun the police. He ends up breaking his arm in a quarry and spending a night in jail. Undaunted in his pursuit of Linda, Evel follows her one winter day to the lake where she is skating. After tricking her into riding with him in his car, Evel makes love to her, although later, when she informs him that she is leaving for college, he feigns indifference. He breaks down, however, telling her that he may visit her. Evel then recalls how he blew up a room in city hall to raid the safe, only to discover that he dynamited the bathroom. Undeterred, Evel gets more dynamite, distracts the police and blows up the correct room, which he then robs. At the speedway, Evel and Linda laugh over the memory as they leave the suite and prepare for an interview with a local television newsman. When the journalist asks Evel if it is true that he once kidnapped Linda, Evel recounts the story: Missing Linda, Evel rides to her college in Missoula and, when the house mother of Linda's dormitory refuses him entry, bursts through the doors on his motorcyle and rides up the stairs to Linda's room. Linda joins Evel and they ride off together, although the next day, when she calls her father, she learns that the state police are on alert because of her alleged kidnapping. Telling her father that she has already married Evel, Linda is disappointed by his tearful reaction. The couple has not actually married yet, but Evel convinces Linda that if they do wed, he will make her famous and proud of him. Telling him that she will always take care of him, Linda agrees to marry him. With Linda's words echoing in his head, Evel's thoughts return to the present and he enters the speedway. With the roaring crowd watching, Evel easily jumps the nineteen cars. Linda and Pete are thrilled, and Pete leads a delegation of friends who lift Evel onto their shoulders. Evel waves to his adoring fans and soon after, races on his bike to his next challenge: the Grand Canyon.
Lee De Broux
Richard Ford Grayling
John Dale Mccutchan
Liv Von Linden
Robert B. Williams
Fontana High School Band, Drill Team & Pep Squad
Huntington Park Elks Motorcycle Stunt & Drill Team
Thomas J. Schmidt
Thomas J. Schmidt
The film opens with shots of the empty Ontario Motor Speedway in California on the morning of February 28, 1971. George Hamilton, as "Robert Craig 'Evel' Knievel," arrives and, in character, directly addresses the camera, telling the audience what an honor it is to perform for them. After Hamilton rides off on his motorcycle, the onscreen credits begin. In the end credits, a disclaimer notes that while the film is based on Knievel's life, some characters and events are fictitious. The filmmakers thank several companies and locations in the end credits, including the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Deer Lodge National Forest, the Houston Sports Association and The Anaconda Company. Although the film bears a 1971 copyright statement for The Fanfare Corporation, it was not registered for copyright.
Throughout the film, which consists largely of flashbacks detailing Knievel's life, voice-over by Hamilton describes the action. At the end, while he is driving through the desert toward the Grand Canyon, Hamilton, as Knievel, states that "important people" such as himself, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra have a responsibility to their fans to give their lives meaning. Calling himself "the last gladiator in the new Rome," Knievel then states that he will continue to go into the arena to compete because the only real choice left in life is how one will die, and his death will be glorious. Actual footage of the stunts performed by Knievel, such as his jump at Caesar's Palace, is intercut with staged footage of Hamilton and audiences watching the events.
The Knievel character is called predominately "Bobby" by the other characters in the film but is also referred to as "Evel," although the genesis of his nickname is not explained. Modern sources assert that in real life, Knievel was nicknamed Evel by a Butte, MT jailer after the troubled youth was put in a cell next to a man whose surname was Knoffle, and the man allegedly wisecracked: "We got Evil Knievel and Awful Knoffle here tonight." Reportedly, Knievel did not want to be associated with any unpopular motorcycle gang and so used Evel rather than Evil as his name when billing himself early in his career.
Knievel was born on October 17, 1938 in Butte, MT and reared by his grandparents after the divorce of his parents. In modern interviews, Knievel credited seeing an automobile stunt show at the age of eight with inspiring him to become a stunt daredevil. An excellent athelete, Knievel ran track in high school, became a champion skier, was a pole vaulter during his late 1950s stint in the U.S. Army, played hockey and participated in motocross races. Before forming his own daredevil troupe in 1965, Knievel worked in copper mines, sold life insurance, worked as a hunting guide, owned his own hockey team and sold motorcycles in Washington state.
As portrayed in the film, at the beginning of his career as a stuntman, Knievel built his own ramps, engineered the stunts and promoted himself relentlessly. Knievel began by jumping cars, trucks and buses, through fire walls and over tanks of live rattlesnakes and mountain lions. Knievel's first nationally publicized jump took place on January 1, 1968, when he attempted to jump 151 feet across the fountains in Las Vegas' Caesar's Palace. Although the jump was successful, Knievel landed badly and was in a coma for 30 days. The world-record-breaking jump depicted in the film took place on February 28, 1971, when the stuntman jumped over nineteen cars at the Ontario Motor Speedway.
Knievel long dreamed of jumping a rocket-powered motorcycle across the Grand Canyon, but, deterred by the U.S. Department of the Interior and Navajo Indians living in the area, he instead obtained land on both sides of Idaho's Snake River and jumped the quarter-mile span in his "Skycycle" on September 8, 1974. Strong winds blew him down into the chasm but he escaped serious injury. One of the most popular sports figures ever featured on the long-running ABC show Wide World of Sports, Knievel officially retired in late 1975, although he continued to perform in smaller exhibitions. Despite being listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for having broken 35 bones, Knievel groomed his son Robbie as his successor, and in 1999, the younger Knievel successfully jumped a 200-foot plus span of the Grand Canyon in fulfillment of his father's dream. Some sports analysts attribute the trend in "extreme sports" that started in the late twentieth century to the elder Knievel's well-televised athleticism, popularity and showmanship.
According to a September 15, 1970 Daily Variety news item, Jack DeWitt was originally set to write the film's screenplay. Modern sources include Jerry Jensen and Cheryl Smith in the cast. As noted by contemporary sources, portions of the film were shot on location in Deer Lodge National Forest and Butte, MT, the Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, CA and Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park.
Evel Knievel marked the first motion picture produced by Hamilton, the screen debut of actress Kathy Baumann and the first theatrical film of prolific television director Marvin Chomsky, who went on to co-direct the groundbreaking 1977 television mini-series Roots. The film also marked the debut of actress Alana Collins, who married Hamilton in 1972 and took his last name. In 1979, she married musician Rod Stewart and acted under the name Alana Stewart. Evel Knievel also featured the last film appearance of actress Betty Bronson (1907-1971), best-known for her performance in the 1924 film version of Peter Pan (see below).
Several other movies and documentaries about Knievel have been made, including a 1974 CBS-TV series pilot called Evel Knievel, which was directed by Michael O'Herlihy and starred Sam Elliott; a 2000 television documentary, starring the Knievel family, entitled Touch of Evel; a 2004 TNT television movie, also titled Evel Knievel, directed by John Badham and starring George Eads; and a 2005 History Channel documentary called Absolute Evel: The Evel Knievel Story. Knievel played himself in a 1977, fictional feature film called Viva Knievel!, which was directed by Gordon Douglas and co-starred Gene Kelly and Lauren Hutton.
Released in United States July 1971
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States July 1971