Anthony Hopkins and director Roger Donaldson worked together for the second time to make “The World’s Fastest Indian,” the uplifting, fact-based story of an eccentric New Zealand geezer named Burt Munro, who traveled to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in the late 1960s to set a new speed record on his rebuilt 1920 motorcycle. But as Donaldson said in a recent Dallas interview, the experience of working with the Oscar-winning actor was much changed this time around.

“It was very different,” Donaldson said. “When we did ‘The Bounty’ [a high-tension 1984 remake of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty,’ with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian to Hopkins’ Bligh], we were ready to kill each other. We make no secret of that, either of us. Any idea that we would ever work together again, if you’d asked us after we finished that movie, we would have said, ‘Yeah, pigs will fly!’ I mean, there was no way I would ever have imagined that I would ever make another film with him.

“But then, you know, the movie got finished, and we both liked the film a lot. And I guess over the years we’ve both mellowed somewhat. And I guess what I realized, the more experienced I became, was that actually it’s very hard for any actor: the better somebody is in a movie, the more they have to give of themselves. And Tony gave a lot of himself to be William Bligh in ‘The Bounty.’ And I only sort of realized that after I’d made the movie–what an emotional commitment it was to play the character with that much depth and feeling. It’s hard to turn that off. So I forgave him, and I think he may have directed a film himself and realized maybe the job’s not as easy as it looks. And then we ran into each other at a function for Dino de Laurentiis [whose production company made ‘The Bounty’], who was getting an honorary Oscar, and it was just really great to see him after all that time. And as you will say, you know, ‘Let’s do it again sometime,’ meaning like, ‘Let’s have lunch.’ Something nice and insincere like that!”

But that wasn’t the end of things. Donaldson continued: “Anyway, as fate would have it, there was a project that came along that we were both interested in and attracted to. Then that fell apart, and about the time it fell apart–well, about a year before that–I had a young son, and I decided I would take a year off and be around for him, and rewrite this script that I’d been working on for many years.” It was the story of Munro, whose exploit Donaldson had recorded in a documentary, “Offerings to the God of Speed,” back in 1971 and continued to be fascinated by, structured as a picaresque road movie in which Munro meets a line of colorful characters on his trip to America and then to Utah, where he has to overcome additional obstacles with some help from new friends before being allowed to race.

“And that’s what I did,” Donaldson said. “And I gave Tony the script that I’d written, and Tony read it the same day and loved it and said, yeah, I’d love to do it. And that’s how it all came together.” He added: “Actually, that was just the beginning of how it came together. The rest of it was, like, raising money for an independent movie is like trying to get blood out of a stone. It’s really tough. And the only thing that makes you do it is that you’re passionate about the project. It’s not about the great financial opportunities at the end. You’re just passionate about this movie, you’ll do anything to make it, and you won’t take no for an answer.”

The solution presented itself when one of the backers of a Japanese film festival which Donaldson’s wife helped to program asked whether her husband had any scripts he’d like to make. “The World’s Fastest Indian” immediately came up, and Hopkins’ involvement was instrumental in attracting other name performers–like Diane Ladd, Paul Rodriguez and Chris Lawford–to the supporting cast. “Every one of them to me is a very special actor,” Donaldson said. “Every one could carry a movie on their own. Working with Anthony was a big draw. It allowed me to get people interested that normally wouldn’t take a part of that size, just to be part of the picture. And there was something about the script, too, that appealed to all of the people who got involved.”

And Donaldson couldn’t praise Hopkins, who’s in virtually every scene of the movie, highly enough. “He loved playing this character,” he said. “Every day, he was a joy to work with. He would watch the documentary every day, and it became a sort of linchpin, something that he could sort of anchor the performance around.”

Donaldson mused on how different his two projects with the actor, separated by two decades, were. “It’s hard to believe that it was the same two guys making another film together,” he said. “Are these the same people working together? It’s not possible! He’s a big personality, and he’s a complex guy, too. You think you know him, and then the next day you realize, no, no, he’s a different person.”

And, he added, “The Bounty” and “The World’s Fastest Indian” are very different, too. “These two movies are sort of like the complete opposites of human relationships, really,” he said.

It would appear that making them represented an enormous contrast in the professional relationship between Roger Donaldson and Anthony Hopkins, too.