EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Stephen Frears‘ Lance Armstrong movie is further along than I thought. I’m told that Ben Foster is already in final talks to play Armstrong in the film, which was scripted by Trainspotting’s John Hodge and covers Armstrong’s career from his cancer ordeal to the scandal that brought him down. Always a good actor, Foster has a lot of momentum coming into what could be a careermaking role. He will next be seen in two films that premiered at Sundance, IFC’s Ain’t Them Body Saints and Sony Pictures Classics’ Kill Your Darlings. Foster, who last spring made his Broadway debut opposite Alec Baldwin in Orphans, stars opposite Mark Wahlberg in the Peter Berg-directed Navy SEAL saga Lone Survivor, which Universal releases December 27. The hope is to begin production on the Armstrong film this fall. He is repped by WME, Hodge by United Agents. Still no official comment from reps or Working Title.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 10:19 AM: Director Stephen Frears, in Hollywood promoting his HBO film Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight at TCA, is moving fast on another fact-based movie based on an iconic athlete. I’m told that Frears and Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have teamed up on a feature film on the doping scandal that enveloped the Tour de France and led to the downfall of 7-time champion Lance Armstrong in the biggest doping scandal in the history of sports. I’m still trying to get all the details, but they are eyeing a start as soon as this fall on the movie. That makes Frears a surprise entry in a crowded field, and that doesn’t even factor in a Sony Pictures Classics deal this week to release the documentary The Armstrong Lie.
There are two other dramatic projects on Armstrong at studios which seemed to have gotten a good head start on Frears. Warner Bros has been working on an untitled project from Atlas Entertainment scripted by Side Effects writer Scott Z. Burns to be directed by Jay Roach, the helmer of celebrated fact-based films Game Change and Recount. The package includes the life rights of Tyler Hamilton, the Olympic gold medalist, NCAA champion and Armstrong teammate on the US Postal Service Team who was menaced by Armstrong after he took to 60 Minutes to break the code of silence. Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot partners JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk are working on a movie about the disgraced bicycle racer, based on the HarperCollins book Cycle Of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong by New York Times sportwriter Juliet Macur. Not sure how far this one has gotten, but there were rumors that Abrams has discussed the project with Bradley Cooper, who might play Armstrong.
Can all of these movies make it to the start line? Probably not, but there certainly is a good movie to be made about Armstrong, who recovered from near-fatal testicular cancer to win those seven Tour de France titles, only to lose all of it when he finally admitted he had lied all along and disgraced his sport even though he was far from the only one doping. Frears is repped by ICM Partners and Jenne Casarotto in the UK.