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Dan Carter. Photo/Getty Images

Dan in real life: Why Carter made the doco A Perfect 10

The former All Blacks superstar tells the Listener his reasons for making a film about his career.

It’s been four years since Dan Carter kicked his last points in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, which gave him a fairy-tale ending to his career as an All Black and the top-scoring player in the international game. At 37, he’s still playing, with at least one more season to go with the Kobelco Steelers in Japan. He’s still a heavily sponsored sports star with a big following (600,000-plus on Twitter and 900,000-plus on Instagram). He remains a brand and now he’s a movie. The documentary about his career, A Perfect 10, arrives in New Zealand cinemas ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The career-highlights showreel presents some of Carter’s very Instagram moments, whether he’s jogging across the Rakaia Gorge Bridge, contemplating Aoraki/Mt Cook from Lake Pukaki, or practising his goal-kicking beneath the Mt Hutt range. It also takes him back to his hometown of Southbridge to visit his old schools and rugby club, and well-known local pilot Richie McCaw flies him over Christchurch.

But unlike Chasing Great, the 2016 film about McCaw, the Carter doco is a British production. It’s one clearly designed to explain Carter’s spectacular career – and occasionally rugby in New Zealand – to an audience wider than All Blacks fans. The film crew followed Carter for a year, filming his farewell to Parisian club Racing 92, his first season in Kobe, his off-season with his family in Auckland and the lead-up to neck surgery earlier this year for an injury that has been just one of many. They also gathered a squad of coaches, teammates and those he’d played against to chime in on Carter’s virtues.

Dan Carter and wife Honor at A Perfect 10’s Auckland premiere. Photo/Getty Images

When they said, “Dan Carter, it’s time you were a movie”, what did you think?

I was a bit taken aback at first and I thought, ‘Who am I to have a film made about my life or my career?’ So, my initial reaction was, “No, that’s a silly idea.” But then the more I thought about it, the more I thought it’d be quite a cool thing to do as a chance to reflect on my career. It’s not something you really get a chance to do while you’re playing. And it will be a nice little memento for my children, too.

Was Chasing Great an influence on your decision to say yes.

No, not really. He’s a bit of a … he’s an icon. His story is incredible. I did an interview for that movie and I actually only just watched it about a month ago. Don’t tell him that.

Did the fact that the documentary makers were British affect your decision?

A little bit. I’m not sure if any New Zealand film crew wanted to tell my story. They’ve probably heard enough about my life from the media throughout my career. The British are guys I knew and trusted, so I knew they were going to do a good job and make sure it was a true reflection of my life and career. Though I still got a bit nervous … I was a little concerned when they were filming me at fashion shows in Paris and the context that would be put into the film. But they balanced it out really well. And the people they got involved in the film, that’s what really made it to me. I was really humbled to hear the kind words and what people thought about me and my career.

With Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw in 2015. Photo/Getty Images

Which included your dad, Neville, who famously put up those goalposts on the back lawn for your eighth birthday, and there they still stand.

He’s a bit of a superstar of the film, for sure. He’s getting a few offers to sell that section. But he just can’t do it. It just means too much to our family to sell that section or get rid of those famous goalposts. It was nice to share that part of my life and upbringing. That’s where I learnt how to play rugby and that’s where I built my skill set and was able to perform at the highest level because of all those years I spent out in the backyard.

While talking about those backyard days, you said you much preferred team sports as a youngster. But a goal-kicker is still a very individual role.

I’ve never really thought of it like that. I loved going into war with your teammates. But you’re right. Goal-kicking is an individual thing and I love the mental challenge of kicking. It’s something I do very naturally. I have always done. That’s what I do for fun … all kickers have won the World Cup in their backyard at some stage. I lived on those pressure moments to get a kick to win the game, because that’s exactly what I was putting all the hard work in for.

You also seem to train in some very scenic spots in the movie.

Well, the production team are from overseas. I also wanted it to be a great chance to showcase our beautiful New Zealand, and those training shots are parts of the country that I’ve spent time in. I thought they showcased it beautifully.

In action for Canterbury in 2002. Photo/Getty Images

How do you see the film? You’re social-media savvy. You’ve got interests in music and fashion. Is this content for your fan base or something else?

First, it was something I wanted to do for my children. In New Zealand, we love the All Blacks and know so much about the All Blacks. I’ve kept my private life reasonably private. Now that I’ve finished playing, I thought it was a nice chance to showcase a little bit more of my life, my family and my upbringing than I have in the past. I hope the people who watch the film and my fans will appreciate that and also get a bit more of an understanding of what it takes to be a professional sportsperson.

The movie starts with you getting neck X-rays. Given what your body has been through, do you worry about the long-term consequences?

I’ve got an understanding of the potential consequences, but something that I’ve learnt through my career is that your body is incredible. This might sound really strange, but even though I’ve just had neck surgery, my body feels good. I’ve had ruptured adductors, I’ve had a ruptured Achilles, but they feel stronger than they were before the injuries. So, your body really does bounce back and it’s incredible that you can put your body through pain and really push it to these limits. I’m realistic. It’s going to take its toll on my body. But, for me, it’s worth it and I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve gone through to get to where I am today.

A Perfect 10 is in cinemas now.

This article was first published in the September 7, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.