Yes it’s true — I’m told Jake Gyllenhaal and Lance Armstrong are hanging at the Tour De France together because the actor is the leading contender to play the cyclist in a Sony bio pic being quietly developed. On Sunday, the two sat in a Paris hotel together with friends as American Floyd Landis stood on the podium after winning the 2006 Tour de France. Needless to say, the European press went into a speculation frenzy when the Lance and Jake first showed up together . As Saturday’s all-important Individual Time Trial began, Jake joined the seven-time TdF winner in the Discovery team car for a ride-along as Lance protégé Yaroslav Popovych pedalled away. (Lance’s Discovery team faltered without him this TdF, but Landis of Phonak took the yellow jersey and eventually won the overall race). Earlier in the day, Lance met with the Tour de France organizers to lessen the tension. Armstrong, his agent Bill Stapleton, Discovery sports manager Johan Bruyneel, and Tour de France Directors Jean Marie Blanc and Christian Prudhomme had what insiders called “a heart-to-heart discussion” aboard the Discovery bus. “The meeting went well,” Bill Stapleton said later. “Everyone left with a feeling of mutual respect.” Obviously the Tour’s assistance, while not required, would be helpful to the bio-pic. Gyllenhaal and Armstrong have become pals during Jake’s method process to get to know the sports legend. The actor of Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead fame is even a long-time cyclist and has begun training for the film. Armstrong is no stranger to Hollywood: Robin Williams used to join Lance in the Alps while Armstrong was defending his Tour titles. And Armstrong hangs with Matthew McConaughey whenever the cyclist is in Los Angeles. Also, while they were together, Lance and Sheryl Crow were fixtures on the Hollywood charity and awards circuit.
As a huge TdF fan myself, I think a Lance bio-pic is a natural: why did it take Hollywood so long to put one together? So why did it take Hollywood so long to put one together? (UPDATE: Well, Bill Gerber tried to sell it years ago after reading Armstrong’s book It’s Not About The Bike. But Warner Bros. and HBO. Then producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy got lucky that Columbia Pictures president of production Matt Tolmach is a cycling fanatic. I hear he can actually do some of those Tour De France-type climbs — though not as fast.) Given Armstrong’s unhappy youth, his sports prowess (first as a triathlete and then as a cyclist), his cancer battle, his Live Strong yellow wristband campaign and his cancer foundation work, his epic seven TdF titles, his rivalry with cocky Jan Ullrich and upstart Ivan Basso, his love-hate relationship with the French, and his battle against doping accusations, it’s a heckuva tale. And the studio as well as Lance are fortunate that an Oscar nominee like Gyllenhaal wants to do it. There’s even a slight resemblance between the two men, as seen in these close-ups.