Director’s Cut: Voyaging To The North Pole Via Snowmobile


This week: “Wild Bill’s Run”, about a group of small-town Minnesota friends who in the 1970s attempt a journey from Minnesota to the North Pole, then eventually to Moscow – on snowmobiles.

I spoke with Director’s Cut guest host Pete Schwaba about Mike Scholtz’s 2012 documentary.

Terry Bell: What made these guys think they could drive snowmobiles from Minnesota to Moscow?

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Pete Schwaba: I have no idea! And I don’t know that they knew, and I’m quoting the filmmaker when I say that. There are so many funny quotes in this movie, where the guys who are on the trip with Wild Bill ask themselves three days into the trip, “Wow, this wasn’t planned very well!” They’re driving to the North Pole in an attempt to get to Russia, and they just kind of did it. There wasn’t a lot of planning. When I drive to Green Bay, I figure out what my route is going to be, and where I’m going to stop. These guys were going to Moscow!

TB: Pete, you asked filmmaker and Wisconsin native Mike Scholtz how he got the idea for this movie.

Mike Scholtz: I think there’s a myth in documentary films that they can’t be funny or fun. And I had been looking for a project that would be like a comedy-documentary for quite a while. A friend of mine wrote an article for “Minnesota Monthly” magazine about Bill Cooper, this colorful character from just down the road from Duluth, who did all these crimes in the 1970s. And he sort of blew right past the fact that he did this spectacular arctic expedition before he became a criminal mastermind.

PS: What do you think? Can you snowmobile from Minnesota to Moscow?

MS: No. I mean, there may have been ways to do it in the ’70s, because it was a little bit colder then. We’ve had a little climate change since then.

PS: And the bell bottoms.

MS: The bell bottoms helped with ballast. But I’ve spoken with people who said the fact that they made it as far as they did is amazing, because they traveled over areas that should not have been frozen, but were. And they made it to Greenland before they failed spectacularly.

TB: Pete, this sounds like one of those situations where the truth is stranger than fiction.

PS: This movie is like one tall tale after another, where you can’t even believe that this happened, and if it did happen – how did I not hear about this guy or this trip?! It’s really interesting; very entertaining.

See more of Pete Schwaba, Mike Scholtz, and “Wild Bill’s Run” on “Director’s Cut” on Wisconsin Public Television tomorrow night at ten.

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