Chris Schulz scrums down with the makers of a movie about All Blacks great Richie McCaw’s career.

Just like an All Blacks test match, Richie McCaw has already analysed his performance in his big screen debut.

"He just stood up and said, 'Phew, what a relief'," laughs filmmaker Michelle Walshe, who, along with Justin Pemberton, is behind McCaw's upcoming documentary Chasing Great.

They were typically dry words from the recently retired captain, whose life as one of the greatest-ever All Blacks will be splashed across big screens next week when Chasing Great debuts in cinemas.

Richie McCaw with Chasing Great documentary makers Justin Pemberton and Michelle Walsh.
Richie McCaw with Chasing Great documentary makers Justin Pemberton and Michelle Walsh.

The documentary is the result of nearly two years of work from Walshe and Pemberton, who won a reluctant McCaw over. He ended up giving them unprecedented access to his family, friends and fiancee during his final year as captain of the All Blacks.

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But his initial response when asked if he'd like to star in his own feature film was: "Who would want to watch 90 minutes about me?"

"He was serious," says Walshe, incredulously. But the idea obviously stayed with McCaw, one of New Zealand's biggest sporting stars.

"A few weeks later, he pulled me aside and said, 'We've got a box of VHS tapes at home. My dad took a camera around when I was little. Nobody's seen them. Do you want to take a look?"

Walshe, who has a background shooting corporate shorts and TV comedies, says she and Pemberton, who earned an Emmy nomination for his 2013 sports doco The Golden Hour, "nearly fell over" in surprise.

They immediately said yes, and a Richie McCaw movie was born.

"We went around to his parents' house, sat on the floor, ate scones and watched tape after tape. It was the most amazing thing to watch them and know that nobody else had seen them."

A young Richie MCaw in a scene from Chasing Great.
A young Richie MCaw in a scene from Chasing Great.

Those tapes help the film fill in McCaw's pre-All Blacks years, charting his rise from a kid shearing sheep on a farm in Oamaru to a budding rugby player who wrote out a plan to become a "Great All Black" on a napkin in McDonald's - and then set about doing exactly that.

A recreation of the napkin containing Richie McCaw's All Blacks plans.
A recreation of the napkin containing Richie McCaw's All Blacks plans.

The film includes revealing interviews with McCaw's team mates and foes, and ticks many of the boxes that mark McCaw's career: the controversy surrounding the team's loss to France at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, his foot injury that nearly derailed their 2011 RWC campaign, and his record breaking 2015 RWC win.

Richie McCaw in action against the Wallabies during the Bledisloe Cup test match at Eden Park in 2015. Photo/Greg Bowker
Richie McCaw in action against the Wallabies during the Bledisloe Cup test match at Eden Park in 2015. Photo/Greg Bowker

But it's Chasing Great's little details that are most entertaining: the home footage of McCaw hiding under his jacket while listening to his first All Blacks cap announcement on the radio, his love of completing cryptic crosswords on the couch next to his fiancee, New Zealand hockey representative Gemma Flynn, and the ecstatic home video footage from the All Blacks dressing room after their 2015 RWC win, which features players dancing ferociously to Savage's hit song Freaks.

After his initial reluctance, Walshe says McCaw welcomed them into his life, allowing them to film whatever they wanted - including inside his "completely normal" bedroom at his Christchurch townhouse.

Richie McCaw cooks up a cajun chicken salad in his Christchurch home in a scene from Chasing Great.
Richie McCaw cooks up a cajun chicken salad in his Christchurch home in a scene from Chasing Great.

That footage wasn't used in the finished film, but Walshe says McCaw never once asked for the cameras to be turned off.

"He gave us access to his friends, his family, his coaches, and told them all to say exactly what they wanted. He had no idea what they'd say (but) he understood this needed to be a story," says Walshe.

"He's been quite careful about keeping it about rugby for the last 15 years. When he does give you a little bit, it feels like a lot."

After an entire year of filming, Pemberton faced his own mammoth challenge: editing down 700 hours of footage into a concise, 104-minute film. It ended up taking 26 weeks, and he spent much of that time running between multiple editing suites, making decisions on the fly.

"It was a little bit overwhelming. The day after they won the (2015) World Cup, I was sitting in my office at home surrounded by all these drives and I just went for it non-stop, right through Christmas and New Year's. I did not have a break."

Justin Pemberton and Michelle Walsh in action with Richie McCaw.
Justin Pemberton and Michelle Walsh in action with Richie McCaw.

Having been entrusted to tell his life story, Walshe admits getting McCaw's blessing for the finished film was a "nerve-racking" experience.

"I actually hung my hair down over my face, so I didn't have to look at his face," says Walshe, who sat in front of McCaw and Flynn during the screening.

"I could not bring myself to turn my head the entire time, not even one tiny bit."

Turns out he liked it, and now Pemberton and Walshe are waiting to see what the rest of the country has to say about their film on this "old-fashioned sporting hero".

This documentary by Transmission Films follows Richie’s final 365 days leading the All Blacks, as the most capped rugby player of all time attempts to pull-off his most ambitious goal yet – to end his career by becoming the first person to captain back-to-back World Cup wins.

If it does one thing, Walshe hopes it dispels the myth that McCaw is "boring".

"You can't achieve what he's achieved and be boring. You can't have the life experiences he's had and be boring.

"You just have to ask him about any part of that process and what he's discovered along the way, and it's ... completely fascinating," she says.

"Imagine the things that would have come up in his life that he could have got among, and didn't. It takes dedication.

"He's just chosen to go, 'If I'm perceived as boring, that's okay'."

Who: Justin Pemberton and Michelle Walshe
What: Filmmakers behind Richie McCaw documentary Chasing Great
Where and when: In cinemas from September 1