Frears and Seaward had only recently completed Philomena, their fifth collaboration together, which had premiered to great acclaim at the Venice and Toronto film festivals, when they launched into production on their new film. Seaward outlines the logistical factors that forced them to start shooting so quickly. “First of all the cycling season; in order to make the film with integrity and to make it look authentic we had to work with professional cyclists, and the professional cyclists’ calendar finishes at the end of September, and then their training generally resumes at some point later in November. So, the only time that we could have access to a core of professional cyclists was going to be in this window.” In addition to this access, the team were shooting in the Alps, so were fighting against the weather, as Seaward explains. “Obviously at this point - we started shooting in the middle of October, way into the autumn in the Galibier, fighting snow - when of course we’re shooting a movie that takes place in high summer. We had a ten day window to shoot in the Alps.”
Frears and team had been visitors of the 2013 Tour for the strategically critical and visually awe inspiring Mont Ventoux stage. They left with a unique insight into what it is really like to be in the thick of the peloton. As Seaward recalls, “The scale of it is just extraordinary. I think unless you’re in it you can’t possibly imagine it, even if you’re obsessed with it and you watch it on TV. Just the excitement of being in there... it’s thoroughly bewitching. It is quite the most extraordinary, majestic event... quite breathtaking.” They would strive to recreate that extraordinary experience on film.
Bevan describes how Millar was focused on achieving authenticity in the film. “He was very anxious that the cycling should be depicted in a way that was as real as possible. You see most cycling on television and you don’t get any idea of the speed that these guys are going at. So one of the challenges, in terms of the way we shot it, was to give a sense of great speed. When shot on television the cycling is king and the camera comes second and of course when you’re doing a movie, it’s the other way round - the camera can become king and the cycling can come second so you can make sure that it really works.”
When visiting the 2013 race in the Alps with Frears and Seaward, Millar recalls being overwhelmed by the scale of the project. “I was asking Stephen, how on earth are you going to recreate this Tour? It’s so big? He said you have to understand that I look at things and I figure out what I can’t do and work back from there.” Millar thought that Frears and Working Title were particularly brave, “One of the reasons there has never been a major motion picture on professional cycling is because no one has taken up the challenge before.”