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‘Spielberg of Motorcycle Movies’ Building Bridges with Taiwan

Guest Blog: Peter Starr was beaten to the punch on his plan to make a movie about the 700-mile motor scooter trip taken by a group of Taiwanese octogenarians, but he's still revved up

Peter Starr, called the "Spielberg of motorcycle moviemaking" by his friend Jay Leno, is building a unique sort of bridge to Taiwan. 

Starr made 40 motorcycle racing movies for the 1970s to the 1990s. Now 69, Starr visited the Pacific island nation last year with a plan to make a documentary about a group of elderly motor scooter riders,

But Starr learned that a 31-year-old Taiwanese director, Hua Tian-lao, had already made his own documentary about the cross-country scooter brigade of octogenarians hitting the road in Taiwan, so he decided to cancel plans for his own movie. .The ''Grand Riders," as they are called in English, are the focus of a 90-minute documentary titled "Go Grand Riders." The film was released earlier this year.

"When I found out director Hua was already well into producing his movie on the same subject I was looking at, I backed off," he said. But Starr returned to Taiwan this month with a group of elderly American riders who have been invited to accompany a larger Taiwanese group of riders on a what is becoming an annual round-island trip.

"I am still enthusiastic about doing this second trip with a group of American riders coming along, too, and we're all looking forward to our upcoming adventures on the roads of Taiwan, from Taichung to Alishan, Sun Moon Lake and all over."

Starr flew to Taipei in September and was shown a preview of Hua's movie, and he came back in October again for the documentary's Taipei premiere and a reunion with the Grand Riders themselves.

An article Starr wrote in April's edition of Motorcyclist Magazine described the 700-mile round-Taiwan road trip he made in 2011 with the local riders. Many had cancer or degenerative heart disease, Starr said, noting that most of them had arthritis as well.

"But it was a fantastic trip," he told The Wrap. A senior citizen's welfare foundation, the Hondao Foundation, organizes the annual round-Taiwan rides, according to Starr

When asked why he returned to Taiwan even though his plans for a Grand Riders documentary had been shelved, Starr said: "I want to promote the relationship of the group of elderly riders in Taiwan with elderly riders in the America. I not only want to keep this Grand Riders thing alive, but I also want to help it grow, too."

The theme of his planned documentary was to be 'having a dream and a purpose for living out your years productively," he added. Starr said looking forward to joining the Grand Riders on their annual ride around Taiwan every year.

"There's no stopping us," he added.

Starr says he first got the motorcycle bug when he was 16 — that would be 1957 — when he was still living in Britain, where he was born. Friends let him ride a BSA Bantam, a 125 cc two-stroke produced by the Birmingham Small Arms Company, he said, and although it was illegal at that time.  Starr says was hooked for life.

In 1960, he began working for Triumph motorcycles, got into racing, moving up from local club racer to British national racer to international racer and then coming to the U.S. to race at Daytona.

Having made 40 motorcycle racing films in 20 years, from 1973 to 1993, he wrote an autobiography earlier this year titled ''Taking it to the Limit: 20 Years of Making Motorcycle Movies.''

Starr says he has ''slowed down a bit now.'' But he stays busy and is involved with a variety of projects, and his multiple trips to Taiwan to ride and work with the Grand Riders is part of his philosophy to "promote living" no matter how old a person is, he says.

BIO Dan Bloom

Dan Bloom is a freelance writer based in Asia since 1991. During a five-year stint in Tokyo, he covered the triumphs (and occasional failures) of Hollywood movies in Japan and interviewed American actors passing through Tokyo on film promotion tours, including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner.