After Legendary Pictures’ Jackie Robinson biopic 42 hit it out of the park earlier this year, other studios are moving fast to develop their own movies about iconic sports figures. Disney announced today that it plans to get in on the action with a biopic centered on Jesse Owens, an African-American track star who competed at the infamous 1936 Olympics in Nazi-controlled Germany.
Disney has set Antoine Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen) to direct the biopic, while The King’s Speech scribe David Seidler will adapt a screenplay from Jeremy Schaap’s bestseller Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics.
At the 1936 Olympics, which German dictator Adolf Hitler manipulated as a propaganda tool to showcase his military might, Owens became an unlikely hero for African-American athletes, winning four gold medals. Hitler had hoped to showcase white supremacy at the Games that year, but Owens upset those plans by winning medals in the 100m sprint, 200m sprint, 4×100 sprint relay and long jump. Owens’ world record in the long jump stood for an impressive 25 years.
The athlete’s Olympic victories are certainly juicy material for a sports biopic, and Disney’s directorial choice suggests that the studio is aiming for a tense, thrilling film, so this is definitely a project to keep an eye on. No casting announcements have appeared as of yet, though the part of Owens will likely be highly sought-after by a lot of young actors. Given that the athlete was only in his early twenties at the time of the Games, it’s very possible that Disney will pick a fresh face (à la Chadwick Boseman in 42) for the lead role.
Disney has a penchant for family-friendly sports dramas like Miracle and Glory Road, but Owens’ experience at the 1936 Olympics is undeniably intense material, so hopefully the studio won’t sacrifice historical accuracy in the name of a frilly, feel-good story.
Are you excited to hear that a Jesse Owens biopic is in the works? Who would you cast in the lead role? Sound off below!