In 1936, at the height of Adolf Hitler’s reign in Germany, the Olympics were somehow hosted in Berlin. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the situation, Hitler had this belief in a master Aryan Race. He thought fair-skinned, blonde-haired humans were superior in every single way. So it must’ve come as quite a shock to watch that belief be dashed to pieces in his own backyard as a black American, Jesse Owens, completely dominated the blondes and everyone else who was on the track by winning an outstanding four gold medals.
Owens’ performance is regarded as one of the best stories track and field has to offer, and rightfully so. It’s actually quite surprising that there haven’t been more films made about that summer in ’36. Thankfully, that’s all about to change. Disney has a project in the works about Owens (based on Jeremy Schaap’s book Triumph) and so does director Stephen Hopkins. If that wasn’t enough, Anthony Mackie is also stepping into the race, as he and We Are Marshall scribe Jamie Linden are producing another Jesse Owens film, with plans for the actor to also star.
Honestly, I have a bit more faith in Mackie’s version than Disney’s, mainly because of how the House of Mouse has handled sports films recently. I get that it brings in the most box office bucks and the widest appeal if the movie focuses on the emotional aspects of a sports story, but that certainly doesn’t always make for the best viewing experience. If their Triumph movie is handled with the same not-so-subtle suckling of tears that Million Dollar Arm was, I’d rather it not hit theaters. It’s safe to assume Mackie won’t be under quite the same pressure as Disney and therefore, can make the proper movie that this phenomenal story deserves.
In terms of acting ability, I have little doubt that he can pull off playing Owens. I’ve been a big fan of Mackie ever since I saw him in The Adjustment Bureau, but anyone who saw Captain America The Winter Solider knows that the actor is clearly athletic enough to attempt something like this. He’s one of my first choices for who I would want to see play a sports icon like Jesse Owens and I can’t wait to see how he does in the role.
It’s not known at this point whether any studios have expressed interest in the project, but word is that Mackie wants to film later this year in Germany, so we should be hearing more on it in the very near future.