Usain Bolt is now a movie star. He refuses to say he’s an actor.
Such a distinction is important for the Jamaican sprinting great and nine-time Olympic champion. Until his competitive career ends next year, Bolt will continue playing only one role – that of the world’s fastest man, someone who beat the odds to acquire immense fame and fortune on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars in global sport.
As such, it’s not a made-for-Hollywood version of himself that takes center stage in the documentary “I Am Bolt,” which is being released Monday. As the title wants viewers to believe, the Bolt who is in the film is the very same one that his friends, family and other members of his close-knit inner sanctum have seen for as long as they’ve known him.
“I wasn’t an actor,” Bolt said. “I wasn’t trying to push a different person forward.”
This is Bolt, a behind-the-scenes view of the superstar that took about two years to make and has him holding the camera at times. The idea in large part surrounds Bolt’s quest for the so-called triple-triple – three gold medals in three events at three consecutive Olympics, something no sprinter in the history of the sport had ever accomplished.
He pulled it off, to little surprise, at the Rio Games.
And then he could finally exhale, knowing this film would have the perfect ending.
“Oh my God, you have no idea the pressure that I was under,” Bolt said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, as the production was winding down. “But I live for these moments. I love the pressure. And I have all the confidence in myself and my coach and the team I have that it would come true for me. The pressure was there, but the confidence was always there – which made it much easier.”
Bolt agreed to make this film after realizing that he would be able to convince both his fans and his detractors that what they see on the track – a free-spirited showman who tries to be stoic and serious only when absolutely necessary – is what they would get if they tagged along with him on a typical day.
He shows off some of the spoils of his life, whether it’s the party scene or traveling or enjoying luxury. He also shows how all that is possible, with 5:30 a.m. workouts that he groaned through and the rigors of what’s needed to keep an elite athlete in top physical condition.
“I live a simple life, you know what I mean?” Bolt said. “One of the things that made me really want to do this was people always saying: ‘Aw, this is not really who he is. He’s not always laughing. It’s not always fun for him.’ This is who I am. I really wanted to show people this is who I am. I like to have fun. I like to chill. I like to go out. That’s just a part of me. The part that people don’t see, that’s the part I want to show people behind the scenes, the hard work.”
There are also some moments where that megawatt smile isn’t present. Yes, even Usain Bolt can have a tough day.
“You have to ask yourself, why am I doing this? I’ve done everything. I’ve done it many times,” Bolt said. “I have nothing else to prove.”
Not now, he doesn’t.
The triple-triple was the capper to a storied Olympic career. He’s the world-record-holder in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and anchored the fastest 4×100-meter relay in world history as well. But without those three golds from Rio de Janeiro, Bolt would have felt somewhat unfulfilled.
“I wanted to be one of the greatest,” Bolt said. “I wanted to be among the greats. Without this Olympics, I would be great, yes. But I don’t think I would be in the bracket of Muhammad Ali, Pele and the great footballers. That’s what I want.”
Bolt’s plan is for the world championships next year in London to be his final meet.
From there, who knows.
He’s already well set-up as a businessman, with endorsement deals around the globe and other investments – such as a restaurant not far from Jamaica’s National Stadium in Kingston, an eatery where a two-lane track is stenciled on the floor around the bar. He’ll consider dabbling with other sports, and he has a clear desire to play soccer. He might coach. He will not be a politician.
And he’s already been approached about acting. For the record, Bolt says the actor who could play him best is Denzel Washington, and he counts “2 Guns” as one of his favorite movies.
“People always say it was ‘Training Day,'” Bolt said. “But I loved ‘2 Guns’ because it was different.”
He wanted this movie to be different as well.
“I tried to talk about what I’m feeling, what I’m thinking,” Bolt said. “That’s what I really try to portray. I never try to be unoriginal.”