1940s-era bicycle, from Antigo, has a role in motion picture opening here Friday|
|He’s not quite hobnobbing with George Clooney and Matt Damon, but Al Berger of Antigo does have a rather significant role in the film, “Monuments Men,” opening Friday at the Palace Twin Theater.|
Or at least his bicycle does.
Berger, who operates Bergerwerke Bicycle, specializing in World War II vintage bicycles and general repair work, supplied the 1940’s era Army bicycle used in a key scene in the production.
“My wife actually spotted it,” Berger said, who saw the movie for the first time shortly after its release on Feb. 7. “The handlebars are very distinctive.”
In the scene, Lt., Donald Jeffries, who is attempting to rehabilitate his tattered image, uses the bicycle to infiltrate a Belgian town whose church is home to a priceless statue of the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo. He is forced to use the bike, rather than more usual Army conveyances, after the military brass refuse his request to have troops enter the town and secure the artwork.
Berger said it was a thrill to actually see the bike in use, piloted by an actor famed for his role in the cult hit television show Downton Abbey.
“It’s actually an integral part of the movie,” he said. “It’s not just in the background.”
Berger’s love for bicycles dates to his childhood, but he honed his talents in building and collecting the World War II models after becoming a military re-enactor, a popular pastime.
“When I got into re-enacting, I never could afford a Jeep, so I painted bicycles olive drab and added balloon tires,” he said. “Everyone just loved them. Even now, when I have a Jeep, people at re-enactments will always comment on the bikes.”
Berger honed his craft, scouring the Internet for parts for the increasingly-rare bicycles and manufacturing exact reproductions from scratch.
“I combine all my resources together and make the ultimate replica,” he said. “It has to be an exact model. A lot of pieces are homemade since you just can’t get them anymore.”
As the business grew, Berger’s friend, Jim Klokner, created a website, bergerwerke.com., which eventually expanded the reach of the business all the way to Berlin, where Clooney was filming his movie.
Last March, Berger was contacted by the propmaster for the film, asking if he could build and ship a bicycle to Germany.
“He was really rushing me,” Berger said, explaining that he rebuilt a bike that he already had on hand, and then painstakingly disassembled it for shipping overseas, including instructions in both English and German.
Then came the waiting.
“It was killing me to see if they used it in the film,” he said.
After a few more phone calls, he was assured the bicycle would appear in the completed film.
“It was really exciting,” he said.
The movie star will not be coming home, he said. The production company actually purchased the bike and it’s probably sitting in storage in Germany, awaiting another World War II role.
Berger will be watching.
Al Berger with a World War II bicycle replica similar to the one he provided for The Monuments Men, a major motion picture which starts Friday at the Palace Theater.
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