Danny MacAskill as a professional Santa Cruz mountain bike rider has never been one to shy away from a challenge. He's a YouTube pioneer of nail-biting, heart-in-your-mouth films and loves nothing more than tackling seemingly impossible rides on remote Scottish mountains to pulling off technically challenging tricks in his local gymnasium.
In Danny's latest film 'Postcard from San Francisco', the Red Bull athlete continues to raise the bar as he put his body on the line once again to create arguably his best riding edit to date.
With the edit launched a few days ago and through the magic of Zoom, we had the privilege to sit down with Danny in San Francisco and find out more about the film's creation and the unique journey through the Hollywood blockbuster movies set within the Golden Gate City.
Having met Danny a few times previously we greeted each other like old friends and firstly got the all-important chat about the weather in, Danny informing me that "it was quite bonnie his end", I could see he took the title for best weather backdrop, with a gorgeous blue sky behind him and view across San Francisco Bay, whereas I had a gloomy and rainy Edinburgh.
I congratulated him on the epic edit of the new film and asked him what the inspiration was for it and why he chose San Francisco as the location?
"So back around five years ago now, I thought it would be cool to make a real street riding film again, I've not done one proper since 'Inspired Bicycles' and at the time I thought, I'm 31-32 and my health and fitness might not always be as good, so now was the time and doing something in USA seemed like a really cool option.
"Ironically on the second day of filming I broke my kneecap so that set us back and I put the whole project on the backburner while my knee healed after the operation. I was back riding quickly and did some other projects in between, but it was nearly two years before my knee was back to the same level.
"But it actually worked in our favor as we had done all the groundwork and scouted locations. San Francisco is the most iconic city over here, some of the other US cities aren't laid out that well for riding, but San Francisco has it all – the hills, amazing backdrops and cool plazas, all sorts of stuff to ride. Some of the locations we didn't get cleared when we came back or shrubs and plants had appeared on landing spots, but we still had so many iconic locations to choose".
Having watched the film a few times, one of the questions that had come to mind was if Danny and his crew had made plans to ride and shoot on the Golden Gate Bridge?
"We didn't really go after it, the permits to film and ride just on the pavement of the bridge are fifteen grand. To do what I'd want to do, I'd have needed to get up to the top of one of the towers, the rest of the bridge doesn't have that many options, but the railings on the tower would have been interesting. There was zero chance of us persuading the authorities I was competent to ride up there though, I'd have been happy with the height up, but it would have just been a 180 across railings, nothing groundbreaking, a bit shoehorned in, so we just left it."
In his typical laid-back and chilled style, Danny laughs as I reminded him that the top of the towers on the Golden Gate Bridge are 750ft from the water and it probably would have been pretty epic!
Another location used in many films is Alcatraz Island and I asked Danny what he thought about riding another instantly recognisable location?
"Yeah, that was one we worked hard to get the permission on, we pretty much had the island to ourselves before the tourists arrived for the day. I'm not a huge computer game fan, but I played Tony Hawk Pro Skater back in the day and Alcatraz was one of the levels, so I wanted to shoot there. It was such a cool place, on one hand, it's like, I know this place so well but it's pretty creepy and sinister when you think of the inmates being there. It also has a bit of a Disneyland tourist vibe going on and then the Hollywood movie side, I was thinking Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage were going to pop their heads out at some point, so such a cool experience."
After more chat about computer games and Danny's friend, Fabio Wibmer's Grand Theft Auto inspired new MTB film. I asked him how in 'Postcards from San Francisco' the streets look so quiet in places and how he felt about people watching the filming and potentially leaking footage on social media?
"We just chose locations away mostly from the city center, if we had tried more Downtown you're always going to get, even if we ask politely, somebody filming and posting it, so we purposely chose quieter places. In general, for everyone's safety it's better to avoid people just wandering into the shot, it's hard to manage that at times though, so we tried to shoot in less populated locations. It's great to talk to people who know me, there's a lot of people who ride bikes out here and have seen my films, which is awesome."
With the clock ticking on my time I asked Danny what was on the horizon for 2023?
"I've got a few projects planned for next year, not riding street, well street for my social media stuff. I'd like to get back on the mountain bike and film something around that. I've been out here for a month now, so I'm chomping at the bit to get out on my e-MTB, I ride a lot of e-bike stuff, it's all I do when I'm back home in Inverness – well not all I do, but it can be like two batteries a day. The e-MTB is just so good, so I'm missing that."
At that, I thanked Danny for his time and dropped a not so subtle hint for some joint e-biking in the near future. You can watch 'Postcards from San Francisco' and Danny Macaskill’s outstanding bike handling skills right here below and look out for an out-takes series coming soon on Red Bull TV.