Star of cult eighties film ‘RAD’ is helping to bring the BMX back to the big screen with the upcoming ‘Heroes of Dirt’.
If Bruce Campbell is the cult hero of horror films, and Tommy Wiseau the Orson Welles of bad movies, the underground celebrity du jour of ‘80’s bike movies must be Bill Allen. His name may not be immediately recognisable to most people, but chances are if you grew up in the 1980’s with a penchant for biking, at some point you watched RAD, begged your parents for a BMX, and scraped your knees out on the street trying to recreate some of his stunts.
RAD is the story of Cru Jones, a young BMX biker played by Allen who must compete in an outlandish race called Helltrack, all while tackling the growing pains of adolescence.
Released in 1986, the movie was a box office failure, universally panned by hostile critics. Yet it found a new lease of life on VHS, becoming one of the top-ten rentals for two years running.
Almost thirty years later, RAD wears its 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating like a badge of honour, where it conversely holds a 91% audience approval grade. The movie has also become a staple of modern social media -with ‘fake’ Cru Jones Twitter and Facebook accounts; and parodies on American Dad and The Tonight Show have only served to cement its place as a cultural touchstone.
Allen has gone on to rack up credits including Born on the Fourth of July, Breaking Bad and Robert Altman’s Streamers. Yet the movie people still ask him about is RAD.
“I had no way to project that thirty years later, people would still want to talk about it,” he muses to FilmInk. “It’s been the great surprise of my career.”
In spite of his bemusement, he returns to familiar territory this year with Heroes of Dirt, where in an age appropriate role-reversal, he plays the father of an aspiring BMX biker.
“I love the theme of mentorship,” he explains. “I find today’s youth greatly lacking in guidance that comes from someone outside the family.”
Allen’s casting in Heroes of Dirt is part hero worship, and part acknowledgement of the debt it owes to RAD.
“The producers of Heroes of Dirt, Eric and Jill Bugbee, contacted me,” he explains, “out of the blue. Eric grew up on BMX and saw an opportunity to bring BMX back to the cinema. We hit it off immediately. He understood the impact of RAD and wanted to infuse that spirit into Heroes of Dirt.”
Where some actors might shy from being so closely associated with a niche genre of film, Allen is evidently proud of his synonymy with bike movies.
“I am so happy to be a part of the next BMX film to reach theatres,” he enthuses and adds that for his next film he plans to get back on the bike.
“The script is being developed. It will be a love letter to the fans, and hopefully bring future fans a great ride. It will be my first lead in a movie since RAD.”
Heroes of Dirt received a general US release in September, and will be available on DVD and VOD from December 8.
By Matthew Lowe | September 10, 2015