Charley Boorman is having the time of his life. A modern day adventurer astride his motorcycle, Boorman, along with his best mate actor Ewan McGregor, has risen to iconic status in the motorcycling world during the past decade.
The reason? The breathtaking brilliance of the documentary television series, DVD and book "Long Way Round" which chronicled the duo's 19,000 (31,000km) motorcycle journey from London to New York. Traveling east through Europe and Asia, they flew to Alaska and continued on the road from there to New York. The series originally aired from October 2004 to February 2005.
The past decade has been a whirlwind. Boorman and McGregor also collaborated on "Long Way Down" from Scotland to South Africa in 2007 and a third adventure "Long Way Up" remains on the planning board. Meantime, Boorman has busied himself with other adventure shows "By Any Means" and the current "Extreme Frontiers."
Boorman comes by film-making and story-telling quite naturally. The 47-year-old father of two is the son of famed film director John Boorman and appeared in Deliverance (1972), as the young Mordred in Excalibur (1981) and in a leading role in The Emerald Forest (1985). He met McGregor on the set of The Serpent's Kiss in 1997 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Boorman is dyslexic and in 2009 became president of Dyslexia Action, a charity devoted to removing barriers for those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. He actively supports the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and has incorporated his visits to many UNICEF projects into this TV programs.
Charley recently took the time to answer an array of questions from AllAboutBikes.
AAB: You've been around motorcycles from a very young age. At what point did you know they would be part of your professional life?
CB: I've ridden motorcycles since I was seven years old so they've always been part of my life, and I continue to use my bike to and from A to B. Before "Long Way Round" I'd been involved in motorcycle racing teams in the British Superbike Series so I'd always been looking to do something with motorbikes.
When Ewan and I did "Long black porn Way Round" we had a golden opportunity to fulfill a lifetime dream, I don't think either of us thought it would be successful! I then went on to do Race to Dakar, and there was a glimmer of hope that I could carry on working with motorcycles. And then we were lucky enough to film "Long Way Down", and everything just seemed to fall into place!
AAB: What is your bike of choice at this time?
CB: A new BMW GS 1200 R, I used it on my most recent trip in the USA and it was incredible – it even managed to get me through some roads in Death Valley after flash floods!
AAB: You grew up in a movie family. Can you sense, or are you conscious of your father's influence when you present and tell a story?
CB: Absolutely, I definitely got the sense of adventure from my father and I am of course conscious of his influence. Dad was always shooting movies in complicated places, and as children we always followed him to all these amazing locations. When you grow up on film sets you are bound to learn things. I definitely am very fortunate to have a great working relationship with my Dad and I have picked up lots of great stuff that has helped me with TV shows.
AAB: When did you first meet Ewan McGregor and did the two of you strike up an immediate friendship?
CB: I first met Ewan on the set of a film we were doing together called Serpent's Kiss. We had both just had our first child and quickly realised we were both mad about bikes. I'd say we definitely had an immediate friendship.
AAB: Who's the better rider?
CB: Obviously it's me!
AAB: What was the inspiration behind "Long Way Round"?
CB: There is an incredible book by Ted Simon called "Jupiter's Travels" – read it and you'll know why we had to do this trip!
AAB: Did you anticipate the success of "Long Way Round" and the fame that followed or were you taken a bit off guard by it?
CB: Ewan and I had come up with this dream trip, and even though we thought it was a good idea, to be able to put that idea into a TV show and get it out there is another thing. I think we were all really taken aback by the fact that it was such a success and my whole life has changed because of it.
AAB: You followed up with "Long Way Down", another successful venture. Is "Long Way Up" still in the works?
CB: Ewan and I always thought this would be a three part series, and we definitely would like to do it someday.
AAB: You competed and were injured in the 2006 Dakar Rally. Would you ever consider doing it again?
CB: Yes I'd absolutely love to do it again. In the 2006 Dakar Rally I broke both of my hands, it was so gutting but I saw Simon Pavey from our team complete it and it was fantastic to be a part of that.
AAB: You've collaborated with Russ Malkin on "Extreme Frontiers" Canada, South Africa and USA – what spawned the idea for these series?
CB: Well in my previous shows such as Long Way and By Any Means, I'd always rushed through countries and there were so many places I wanted to revisit, in order to really get under the skin of a country. So we came up with "Extreme Frontiers" to really find out everything we could about one specific country, in terms of adventure, gastronomy, history, culture and landscape.
AAB: Do you have favorite segments from each, or favorite places you were able to visit?
CB: In reflection, the route that we chose going from Boston down on that Southern Belt, all the places were places I really wanted to go. It's difficult to say a specific place, it's much more about the experiences from diving on a WW1 German U-boat to flying the Wright Brothers' glider and climbing mountains in the Rockies – it's definitely about all those special moments.
AAB: Can you talk a bit about your charity work with UNICEF and Dyslexia Action?
CB: I'm very proud to be an ambassador for UNICEF, and we've been able to get some of the UNICEF stories into some of the TV shows that we've made which is fantastic. It's just an ongoing process to raise as much money as possible for children around the world. I'm also President of Dyslexia Action. I struggled tremendously in school and am proud to be dyslexic. I've been forced to think out of the box as I don't fit into an academic peg [hole].
Dyslexia affects people of all ages, not just young people and Dyslexia Action are able to help people from 7 to 67 and beyond. Some people slip through the net and never got the chance, and some have always been so crippled by dyslexia that they don't know what to do. Dyslexia Action gives them the tools that are necessary to carry on through life and it's a fantastic cause.
AAB: What's next for Charley Boorman?
CB: I love doing these Extreme Frontiers and really exploring different countries, America is somewhere I've always wanted to visit and it seriously didn't disappoint! It would be wonderful to have the opportunity to make another one heading down to Mexico or the Middle East … or China. The list is endless!
Continue to follow Charley's travels at Extreme Frontiers.