Coming to Bluray this week from director/producer Derik Murray and Virgil Films is an in-depth and candid look at the life of a man who said “I Am Evel Knievel.”
In the 1960s, a man named Evel Knievel would be destined to become a legend. From a small town in Butte, Montana, Knievel started his life as a rebel and a bit of a blooming daredevil. From rodeo rider, to pole-vaulter to semi-pro hockey player and motocross racer, he lived on the edge.
He would begin to promote himself as the daredevil motorcyclist who would jump things most men wouldn’t think to jump. Going from event to event his jumps would gain more and more notoriety and curiosity.
This daredevil on a Harley-Davidson captured the imagination of the world with his 75 nerve shattering jumps that on 11 occasions led to bone and back breaking results. Yet Evel Knievel stood right back up, brushed off his iconic leather jumpsuit and became a national hero.
This Bluray is the story of Evel Knievel as interviews with sons Kelly and Robbie Knievel, former wives Linda Knievel and Krystal Kennedy-Knievel, stunt rider Robbie Maddison, Bob Einstein (Super Dave Osborne), Guy Fieri, Michelle Rodriguez, Kid Rock and Matthew McConaughey all share their stories, feelings and elation with how the daredevil himself influenced and taught them something about their own lives.
There is also footage of Knievel’s jumps (both good and bad so be prepared) and special features “Inspired by Evel” and “Evel Knievel Lives On.”
I have the extraordinary opportunity to talk with Evel Knievel’s son Kelly who shared about his father, the history and what he all wants us to know about his legendary daredevil father.
Thanks for talking with me today Kelly I appreciate it.
I know you get this question a lot so forgive me but your father was this amazingly incredible person but also larger than life. How is that for you as a kid growing up.
Thank God we grew up in a small town in Montana. Butte, Montana isn’t Hollywood or anything and in the 70s it wasn’t like today, we weren’t the Kardashians or anything. When my dad made his first jump in 1967 and jumped 75 times so in a span of 7 or eight years he became the most famous person in the world. He did it by traveling from county fair to county fair hauling his own jumps, being his own manager and doing his own appearances thinking of everything himself. Seriously, we were so busy we didn’t have time to notice how busy he was.
That’s a lot of jumps, did you go to every one?
No, we didn’t go to every single one but my Dad took us around to a lot of his jumps. I mean I couldn’t have done what he did I will say that much.
You are right, you don’t realize all the traveling you are doing till later in life.
Yes, you are just a kid and this is just what you do.
You didn’t find anything different from you and other kids?
I think I purposely tried to be like other kids I grew up with. My dad didn’t make a big deal out of it and my dad didn’t put on airs either. He was famous and he knew he was famous. He didn’t have to pretend he was a big shot he already knew he was a big shot. It is so different today with everything being staged and choreographed with red carpets and makeup. My dad didn’t do any of that, he was just himself.
I think it was amazing when they discussed that when jumps are done now they make sure the aerodynamics are right and the bike is built right. Your dad jumped on a Harley that wasn’t modified!
At the time that was what they did. At the time that was advanced technology.
That was still a very heavy bike the Harley-Davidson XR-750?
Very heavy – which is why he fell off of the bike. He jumped 175 times and he fell off 11 times and the crashes were so spectacular. His willingness to get back up and do it again was what made him so famous.
You grew up with this amazing person and we can only see it from the outside, what do you think made him take a fall and then get back up and do it again?
That was just who he was, he was a prideful guy who loved being Evel Knievel. He loved his life and loved being famous and proud of his number 1 red, white & blue he wore on his shoulder. That’s just who he was. When he jumped over 13 busses at Wembley, broke his back and hip and they were going to carry him out on a stretcher he said, ‘No I’m not going out on a stretcher! Carry me to the top of the ramp where I can address this crowd.’ He got up and went to the top of the ramp, in shock, and told them all you are the last people who will see me jump. He did come to his senses a few days later in the hospital and said I’ll be damned if I go out like that. He came back to the United States and jumped over fourteen buses. That was just the kind of guy he was.
Yes, on the DVD they speak on the announcement at Wembley yet I thought to myself that pain makes us say things you normally wouldn’t say so I wasn’t surprised when he changed his mind. How do you think he dealt with the pain?
He broke his back five times; he was a tough son of a gun I tell you. He accepted that the pain was part of it. He didn’t like or relish the pain but said ‘no king has lived a finer life that I have’. It was part of the deal, when you’re Evel Knievel you have to deal with the pain and he dealt with it the best he could.
As a child watching all of this, did you think he was your own private Superman?
No, I never thought of him like that.
To you he was just Dad?
He was more than just my Dad, he wasn’t this mythical figure. We still had a father-son relationship.
I believe it was you that said you didn’t need to get on a motorcycle leaving it to your brother Robbie?
He was way better at it than I was and I didn’t get the fame bug.
Did you enjoy riding?
Yes, but not daredevil stuff. Just for pleasure.
When your Dad decided to take off in a rocket, did you have anything to say about that?
Do you think the world’s greatest daredevil is going to listen to a punk kid about what he should or shouldn’t be doing?
No <laughing> but there is something in me that would have wanted to say, ‘hey, is this a good idea?’
And what good would that have done. You don’t tell Evel Knievel what he can and can’t do.
I’m sure if he wanted your opinion he’d have asked for it right?
Exactly right. He didn’t like listening to other people because they would naysay or doubt what he was trying to do.
I got that from watching the Bluray, tell him no and watch what happens!
I remember your father doing these jumps, seeing him on television and in interviews. When he made the jump over the Snake River Canyon in Idaho, I never realized the parachute opened before he even left the platform.
Immediately it opened.
Did they ever discover why that happened?
The same exact thing happened in the test rockets that they shot off. The propulsion just shot the canisters off the parachute mechanism and the exact same thing happened during the real rocket shot. He was lucky the wind was blowing that day. The first two test shots went right in the middle of the canyon so he was even luckier that the sky cycle landed against the wall of the canyon in such a manner that it landed right at the wall of the canyon ten feet from the bank of the river where there was a sand bar that the sky cycle could topple over on without going into the river. The guy had nine lives is all. That was just sheer luck.
One thing the Bluray doesn’t address really, did your father consider ever doing that jump again?
No, that was the only jump I ever saw him really have trepidation about. HE said he would do it but he never tried to do it again. He said he would do it once and he did.
I wondered about that, if there was an afterthought. He does say on the Bluray for a brief moment that he had reservations but I had to ask.
He never expressed any interest in doing it twice.
I learned so much about your Dad that I didn’t know before. Everyone on the Bluray spoke so highly of your father with Matthew McConaughey as well.
Matthew and my Dad were friends.
Matthew spoke of him with such affection.
You can tell all the people on the Bluray who knew my Dad closely and those that met him just once or twice.
This is going to allow so many people remember some of the most awesome events that happened when we grew up but it also invites a new generation in.
New kids can learn about it to. They look up to Tony Hawk and more each saying that Evel Knievel inspired them. He started this higher extreme sports movement. Robbie Madison also gave him credit for inspiration. Now, others can learn about a legend.
When people watch this Bluray, what do you want them to know about your Dad?
My Dad was not born Evel Knievel, he didn’t do his first jump until he was 17 or 28 years old. He had no managers, the guys sheer determination, imagination and charisma and personal drive and belief in himself – he was like a human freight train. There was nothing that was going to stop this guy, nothing or nobody. People have good and bad qualities and my Dad had that just like any other human being but that did not stop him from becoming whatever he wanted to be. So, all these people out there that think they have to be perfect with perfect sculpted images are short changing half their humanity. Humanity is what makes people relatable. My Dad went out and risked his life, told people he was going to risk his life and did it with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. That’s what made people love the guy. He crashed and said ‘I told you so’ and he got up. There’s a lot to be learned from that I think.
A lot to learn from that indeed. It was truly amazing to talk with Kelly about his father because, as I said, I remember seeing Evel Knievel do his jumps and my brother even played with the action figure. From my generation you’d only have to say this man’s name to get a swift and big reaction.
This is an amazing documentary that taught me a thing or two about Evel Knievel that I didn’t know. Listening to others talk so candidly and affectionately about Knievel is one of the best features of the Bluray. It is easy to see how this man reached so many in such a short amount of time leaving behind a legend that is truly unmatched.
Now, this generation will have an opportunity to see what hard work, determination and being true can do for any dream. “I Am Evel Kneivel” is on Bluray this week, take the time to ride down memory lane!
Virgil Films & Entertainment bring the best from film, documentaries, special interest and sports to DVD, Bluray, television and digital format. Recent released include the Oscar-nominated documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me and the award winning documentary Miss Representation. One of my personal favorite documentaries that Virgil Films represents is the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo and the follow up Korengal, For more of what Virgil Films has to offer please visit www.VirgilFilmsEnt.com.
In the end — he was daring and fearless!