Sixteen days before Richard Branson is scheduled to make a potentially historic flight as the first passenger to reach space in his own spacecraft in July 2021, the billionaire entrepreneur sits down for a conversation with acclaimed filmmaker Chris Smith, in light of the risk that lies ahead. Smith ultimately takes us on an expansive and intimate 70-year journey, from Branson’s upbringing as the son of a spirited, tough-love mother in Britain, to his pursuits of extreme, personal daredevilry that serve both to grow his businesses’ brands and feed his insatiable, lifelong thirst for high-stakes adventure. With added insight from family members, business associates, and journalists, and illustrated by decades of archival and home video footage, Branson reveals the ups and downs of a man driven by risk taking in both his business and personal life, reflecting on the costs and rewards of his lifelong, relentless optimism and boundary-pushing.
After dropping out of school where he struggled with dyslexia, Branson began his entrepreneurial career as a 15-year-old publisher of a student magazine and went on to become a millionaire by the age of 22 with the booming success of Virgin Records. His launch of the airline Virgin Atlantic soon followed, along with a myriad of other Virgin branded businesses with varying levels of success, culminating in the launch of Virgin Galactic, his commercial spaceflight company in 2004. His record-breaking, transoceanic boat and balloon challenges, and now his crusade to bring customers to space, have all been positioned by Branson with the Virgin brand front and center. Branson remains a complex figure, committed to both philanthropic initiatives and his own bottom line.