Published on November 7th, 2017 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
’30 For 30: Nature Boy’ Director Rory Karpf On Working With Ric Flair, His AMC Series With Robert Kirkman, & Being A Father
Within the world of professional wrestling, Ric Flair not only had one of the longest in-ring careers of any wrestler, but he is considered to be one of sports-entertainment’s all-time greats. However, his appeal and notoriety have always gone well beyond the world of wrestling, as Flair is frequently referenced within the mainstream media. Flair has co-written two best-selling books — the most recent of which is 2017’s Second Nature along with wrestler/daughter Charlotte — which have told most of his story. But never has there been a proper documentary done on Ric Flair with others offering their insight into the legend.
Years in the making, ESPN is finally premiering 30 For 30: Nature Boy on November 7. Director Rory Karpf not only had full cooperation from The Nature Boy himself and many of his also-legendary peers, but also from the WWE. In turn, Karpf’s production provides an all-access look into Flair’s life and legacy that ought to appeal to both long-time fans of Flair and regular viewers of 30 For 30.
Prior to directing this edition of 30 For 30: Nature Boy, Karpf was an in-demand documentarian, previously employed by NFL Films. Dale, as released in 2007, chronicled the life of legendary racer Dale Earnhardt — as narrated by actor Paul Newman — and went on to be the highest-selling sports DVD of all-time. 2008’s The Ride of Their Lives, which focused on the history of NASCAR, featured the narration of Kevin Costner, another Academy Award winner. Karpf’s 2009 work Together was a look at the Hendrick Motorsports team of 2004 and had narration from Tom Cruise. Overall, Karpf has won four Emmy Awards from nine nominations.
On behalf of the Hype Magazine, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rory Karpf about his latest 30 For 30 episode, his history with Ric Flair, and what else he has coming up. More on the director can be found online at www.rorykarpf.com.
I’ve been hearing about your 30 For 30 episode for years. When did you first start working on it?
Rory Karpf: We started filming in October 2015.
Did you personally grow up as a fan of wrestling? A fan of Ric Flair?
Rory Karpf: I grew up near Philadelphia in the 1980’s a HUGE wrestling fan. I loved the escapism wrestling provides I actually saw Ric wrestle when I was eight years old against Road Warrior Hawk at the Philadelphia Civic Center. I was able to get up front and was screaming “Wooooo!” He replied “Don’t ‘wooooo’ at me you little punk.” It was awesome.
When did you first meet Ric?
Rory Karpf: I first met him when we did his interview. We had dinner the evening before and of course, Ric got the tab.
What was the most challenging part of working on this episode? Was it clearing content? Making the story fit the time allotted to you?
Rory Karpf: The most challenging aspect was to make a film that appeals to wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike. We didn’t want to do something that talked down to wrestling fans, but we also didn’t want to do something too insider. This film really has some universal themes that transcend wrestling and even sports. What is the price of greatness? What is the difference between being “the man” vs simply being “a man.”
Do you have a favorite part of the 30 For 30?
Rory Karpf: I really like the parts with Ric’s family, especially his first wife Leslie. It was the first time she has ever given an on-camera interview and I think she provides a lot of insight into Ric when he was simply Richard Fliehr in college, before he became the “Nature Boy.”
Is there a lot of unused footage? I would assume that there were many more interviews that could have been used, and a lot of great footage related to that.
Rory Karpf: We had about 20 people we interviewed not make the final cut of the film, and there were some really good ones. There’s always a lot of tough choices to make putting one of these together and good content sometimes doesn’t make it. But we try to do what makes the best whole, instead of just one particular part.
Although most people watching the show are presumably going to be big fans of Ric Flair, is there a big takeaway you’re hoping for?
Rory Karpf: I don’t want to ever tell someone what to feel or think when watching a film. Hopefully, they’re just entertained and think about it for a few days after it ended. Ideally, they’ll want to see it again.
Is there something you wish more people knew about Ric Flair?
Rory Karpf: That he was an athlete and how wrestling IS a sport. In my opinion, Ric should be revered like any other sports great, such as Michael Jordan or Tom Brady.
Are there any upcoming projects of yours that you can talk about?
Rory Karpf: I have a series on AMC that I was Executive Producer on and directed three episodes, Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics. The debut episode premieres Sunday. November 12 after Walking Dead at 11:00 PM ET. I grew up a huge wrestling and comic book fan. My inner 11-year old nerd is living a dream.
When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?
Rory Karpf: All my spare time goes to being a dad to my two sons: Cooper, age 11, and Tyler, age 8. I enjoy being a director, but it pales in comparison to the fulfillment I get being a father.
Finally, Rory, any last words for the kids?
Rory Karpf: Please tune into ESPN on November 7 at 10:00 PM… Wooooo!Tweet