Kevin Foster’s greatest accomplishment almost didn’t happen because of a global upheaval.
Foster â€” who has called Kaweah, near Three Rivers, home since 1990 â€” was scheduled to ride his bicycle on the Great Wall of China in 1989, but the Tiananmen Square incident that saw the Chinese government crush a student revolt happened in spring.
After negotiations and delays, Foster would not be able to ride atop the Great Wall until May 1990.
Two decades later, momentum is building toward making a movie about his China experience, Foster said.
A screenplay has been completed and the Chinese government has tentatively offered $25 million to partially finance the film.
That’s roughly half the movie’s budget, Foster said.
The trick now is to fill out the rest of the proposed budget, choose a lead actor and start filming as early as 2012, Foster said.
Movie moves forward
Judging from Foster’s experience making films and his tireless pursuit of this goal, the movie will be made, experts say.
“I would not even be involved in this if I didn’t think Kevin could get the job done,” said Kim Holland, who works as a consultant for American companies trying to do business in China. She has acted as liaison between Foster and the Chinese.
“The Chinese are very serious about this. China is a blossoming superpower with a lot at stake with tooling their image,” she said.
The key to the project is to find the right actor to star in the film, Foster said.
The targeted actor? Jake Gyllenhaal, star of “Brokeback Mountain” and other critically acclaimed films in recent years, is Foster’s favorite.
“It’s a great fit,” Foster said. “Jake is 30, my age when I rode on the Great Wall.”
Gyllenhaal’s management company has taken an interest in the story and passed it on to the actor, who is interested in the project, Foster said.
The Gyllenhaal possibility will put traction behind the idea, Holland said.
Foster’s life was almost cut short.
Foster says he actually started living on July 2, 1968, when he was 8 years old. A tree-climbing contest in Connecticut ended when he touched not a branch, but a live electrical line that sent 65,000 volts coursing through his body.
“I died,” Foster said. “My mind was blank. I remembered nothing about those previous eight years.”
He was written off by his doctors, relatives and associates alike.
This pessimism appeared to galvanize Foster for what was to come.
Childhood friend Phil Duarte, a musician who now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, recalls the first time Foster declared he wanted to ride a bicycle on the Great Wall of China was in middle school while watching President Nixon’s historic trip to China in 1972.
Eighteen years later, that’s precisely what happened.
After Foster’s ride on the Great Wall of China, his next great project was to ride his bicycle over every high point in each state of the U.S. â€” including Alaska’s Mt. Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley.
That mid-1990s expedition took place when the federal government was dealing with the likes of the Waco massacre of the Branch Davidians in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
Finally, Foster’s last major “bicycle adventure,” a sojourn across Castro’s Cuba, happened in 1997 â€” delayed a year because of a 1996 flyover and shoot-down of an anti-Castro propaganda leaflet-dropping airplane.
By that time, not many people cared, and most of the world came into knowledge of the Cuban ride only because of his book, released in 2010, describing his trip.
In short, if you’ve never heard of Kevin Foster, blame it on political firestorms that flared up at the same time.
“That’s the only thing that really bothers me about Kevin,” said Foster’s 82-year-old mother, Stella Rogers, a Wisconsin resident. “He’s never really received the full credit for the inspirational life he has led.”
Still, Foster’s amazing bicycle exploits are but one facet of a life in which the 50-year-old adventurer has written books, produced movies and CDs, and acted on stage and screen â€” including the 2009 film “Yesterday’s Dreams,” which debuted at the Visalia Fox Theatre.
The Moon and Mars
After he gets his movie made about his adventure on the Great Wall of China, Foster has talked about figuring out a way to get to the moon and ride a bicycle there.
“Instead of a spacewalk, how about a bikewalk?” Foster said. “Can you imagine me on the bike, with spacesuit, imaged against a backdrop of the Earth? Now that’s a ride.”
In fact, Foster has called NASA about a trip to the moon.
“The head guy said if I could raise $5 billion in three years, NASA could get me to the moon with my bicycle,” Foster said. “After the meeting, he pulled me into his office and said: ‘Hey, if you can raise $5 billion, let’s just send you to Mars. We could get you there in six months.’ ”
Foster’s friends and family don’t discount the space-travel notion.
“I was not about to doubt Kevin on anything he said,” Duarte said.