In 1976, Innsbruck was the venue for one of the most amazing runs in ski racing history: Franz Klammer’s Olympic gold on the Patscherkofel. At just 22 years old, the young Austrian stunned the world with his daring ski skills and won his first Olympic gold in front of a home crowd. It is a moment that Klammer, along with most of the Austrian population, will never forget.
Fast forward to 2021 and Klammer’s amazing story is being brought to the big screen. Earlier this year, Austrian filmmaker Andreas Schmied and his team came to Innsbruck to shoot their new movie: Chasing The Line. Starring rising talents Julian Waldner and Valerie Huber, the film brings the excitement of the 1976 Olympics to a whole new generation. We met the film crew of Chasing The Line to find out more about the joys and challenges of filming this iconic story in such an iconic place.
“In every race, there is an ideal line. That is the optimal way to ski the course. But if you take this line, then you don’t win.” This famous quote from Franz Klammer was filmmaker Andreas Schmied’s starting point for the film. Just how much had Franz Klammer risked for his big win on the Patscherkofel? What obstacles had he encountered, what doubts had he overcome?
The answers form the basis of Schmied’s new film: Chasing The Line. “Franz Klammer’s life is a success story—the original ‘Austrian Dream’,” Schmied explains. “He goes from being a friendly farmer’s son to a world star while keeping his feet firmly on the ground.” Klammer’s down-to-earth charm and risk-taking on the piste won over the hearts and minds of the Austrian people. Older Austrians remember how schools closed early and the streets emptied as everyone rushed home to watch their national hero win gold on TV. The race is one of Austria’s proudest sporting moments and rightly so.
But Andreas and his team didn’t just want cinema audiences to hear this inspiring story; they wanted them to feel it. “The audience should feel the pressure that almost crushed Franz. And they should be with him as he finds his inner strength and wins the ski race of the century.”
PATSCHERKOFEL ON THE BIG SCREEN
Of course, bringing such an iconic story to the big screen is no easy task. One of the biggest challenges was to recreate the famous 1976 race in a way that is relevant for today’s audiences. For producer Jakob Pochlatko, the obvious choice was to film the race on the very mountain where it took place: the Patscherkofel in Innsbruck.
“We looked at several different ski resorts, particularly some in [the Austrian state of] Carinthia, such as Nassfeld and Bad Kleinkirchen. But as the original Olympic run on the Patscherkofel is still in use today, and as the infrastructure around it was so good, we decided to make the film historically accurate and shoot it on the Patscherkofel,” Pochlatko explained.
The team wanted to show ski racing as it has never been seen on the big screen before. They asked Gerald Salmina, the mastermind behind ski documentary “Streif—One Hell of a Ride” to lead the second unit that would film the actual race. By combining the latest film technology with Innsbruck’s amazing scenery, the film crew have created a climactic race sequence that is every bit as exhilarating as the original race.
“My favourite moment of the Innsbruck shoot were the two days we spent filming Klammer crossing the finishing line,” Pochlatko told us. “We had so many extras in the stadium, all in amazing 70s costumes and all cheering their Olympic hero. Even though I know it’s “just a film set”, I still get goosebumps just thinking about it today.”
BEING FRANZ KLAMMER
But a great story can’t be told by film locations alone. For young actor Julian Waldner, playing such an iconic sports star was a big responsibility. “When I started to talk to people who had been around at the time of the race, it became clear what an impact Klammer had had on people,” Waldner told us. “It gave me a very contemporary and fresh impression of how people felt back then.”
Waldner and the other actors also had the chance to meet Franz Klammer as well as his wife, Eva. Director Andreas Schmied and scriptwriter Elisabeth Schmied persuaded the famous couple to be advisors for the film and the project had the pair’s support right from the beginning. “Franz and Eva were convinced by the very first concept for the film, and they worked intensively with Andreas and Elisabeth. There were many long conversations while doing the research for the script,” Pochlatko explained.
The Klammers also visited the set in Innsbruck, which not only helped the film crew but also surprised and delighted the locals. After all, it’s not every day you see a ski superstar out and about on the Patscherkofel!