EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros, Atlas Entertainment and director Jay Roach are making their move in the race to mount a feature on Lance Armstrong, the 7-time Tour de France champion who was defrocked and disgraced when he finally admitted he was doping. Bradley Cooper is in talks to come aboard as a producer, and he’s also looking to play one of the two major roles in Red Blooded American. One of those roles is Armstrong, and the other is Tyler Hamilton, the former Armstrong teammate who was part of Armstrong’s inner circle on the US Postal Service Team and who came forward and told what he saw Armstrong doing in a 60 Minutes segment. Hamilton was the recipient of blistering attacks from Armstrong for breaking what had been a closed circle. At the time, Armstrong had been accused of doping numerous times, but always had been steadfast in his denial.
Their intention is to ride a fast track toward production, and they are not alone. I’ve reported that Working Title has director Stephen Frears pedaling hard on an Armstrong film that will star Ben Foster as the champion cyclist, from a drama scripted by Trainspotting‘s John Hodge. That film could get underway as quickly as the fall. There is also a Paramount Pictures project with Bad Robot partners JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk, based on Cycle Of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong, a book by New York Times sportswriter Juliet Macur. Reports surfaced back when Armstrong copped to cheating that Cooper had been approached by Abrams to play Armstrong.
Cooper instead becomes the focal point of the Warner Bros project, which has a script by Side Effects scribe Scott Z. Burns. It will be produced by Atlas Entertainment’s Charles Roven and Alex Gartner, as well as Roach and now Cooper. Michael Radutzky, the exec producer at CBS News and senior producer at 60 Minutes who was involved in Hamilton’s TV appearance, is also going to be involved in a producing capacity. Cooper, who’ll next be seen in the killer ensemble cast of his Silver Linings Playbook helmer David O Russell’s American Hustle (which Atlas produced), is next scheduled to star in the untitled Cameron Crowe project that shoots in Hawaii in early fall. After that, he should be available to get on the bike. He and Warner Bros are recalibrating their film American Sniper after Steven Spielberg withdrew as director this month, and Cooper’s next firm commitment is to bring The Elephant Man to Broadway in the latter part of 2014. Cooper is repped by CAA.
Why is Hollywood so interested in the story of Armstrong when it was so recently in the news? His rise and fall is Shakespearean in nature. After nearly dying from testicular cancer in 1996, Armstrong fought his way back from chemotherapy and won all those Tour de France titles starting in 1998. He became one of the world’s most famous athletes and the poster boy for the U.S. Postal Service. His Tour de France wins were attributed to his iron will, but it became clear later on that PEDs were part of the mix as well. He was stripped of his titles and while Armstrong certainly wasn’t the only competitor doping, his admission obliterated the legacy of a great career. Sponsors fled after he admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he cheated, and he even had to remove himself from his cancer foundation Livestrong, which is still suffering a precipitous drop in donations.
Here is Hamilton’s 60 Minutes appearance, in case you didn’t catch it: