EXCLUSIVE: Jim Brown, who traded his status as football’s greatest running back to become a movie star and eventually an activist to steer kids away from a gang lifestyle, is ready for his feature film close-up. Brown has pledged his life rights to producer Hal Lieberman for a feature film that will be written by Bob Eisele (The Great Debaters) and directed by Jonathan Hock, helmer of such documentaries as The Lost Son Of Havana and Michael Jordan To The Max. Lieberman is about to shop the package.
Lieberman said he first met Brown on the set of New Jersey Turnpikes, a basketball comedy he produced and Brown starred in. Though that film never got released, they kept talking and remained friendly until finally Brown was ready. “I’ve been a fan and follower of his career over my lifetime, and there is 50 years of history under his belt,” Lieberman said. After a standout college career at Syracuse (they say he was a better lacrosse than football player), Brown was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and set every record for a pro running back, including career rushing yards, touchdowns and single season rushing yards.
He made the Pro Bowl every year and the Hall of Fame, and while many of his records were eclipsed by players aided by an expanded number of games per season, no back was as dominant and Brown had a lot of football left in him when he retired at 29 to become Hollywood’s first African American action star. He filmed the first interracial love scene (with Raquel Welch in 1969’s 100 Rifles), and starred in such 60s and 70s hits as The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra and Three the Hard Way. Brown had controversy in his life, once serving four of a six month sentence for smashing the windows of his wife’s car, and choosing jail instead of an option to complete a domestic violence counseling program and pay a fine. He has been honest about the highs and lows and has become an outspoken advocate for inner city youth. Lieberman said the film will focus on several facets of a remarkable life. Lieberman is producing The Umbra at Endgame and The Secret Lives of Road Crews, which has Chris Columbus attached to direct.