EXCLUSIVE: Aaron Eckhart will play University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal and Finn Wittrock will play UT football great Freddie Steinmark in My All American, a film that feels like a cross between Brian’s Song and Rudy, the latter of which was written by Angelo Pizzo, who’s making his directorial debut on My All American. Wittrock, coming off Noah and co-starring in the upcoming Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken, plays Steinmark. A scrappy undersized defensive back, Steinmark was a standout player on the national-title-winning 1969 team, before his gridiron career was tragically cut short when he went to the hospital for a bone bruise and learned that he had a cancerous tumor that took his leg and ended his career. The film’s being largely financed by Bud Brigham, a gas and oil industry entrepreneur who is from Austin, where the movie will begin shooting on location next month.
Eckhart plays Royal, who guided the Longhorns to three national titles in his 20-year tenure and never had a losing season. He developed a special bond with Steinmark, whose cancer was discovered just after the team beat the Arkansas Razorbacks to win the title. Steinmark, who made an emotional appearance on crutches when UT played Notre Dame at the Cotton Bowl, coached the team’s freshman defense and became an inspiration to cancer sufferers before the cancer took his life.
Pizzo also scripted the inspirational sports films Hoosiers and The Game Of Their Lives. The film’s produced by Paul Schiff and Michael Beugg is the exec producer. It’s the first big movie investment for Brigham, who told me he and his wife went to UT and were very familiar with Steinmark’s story. He came out of college a geophysicist and went right into the oil and gas business in Texas. After selling the company he took public, Brigham Exploration, in 2011, Brigham said he and his wife became interested in exploring other opportunities that could be a legacy for his five children. Right around the time he was starting another oil and gas company, Brigham Resources, he became aware of My All American. He started Anthem Productions, a company that will get more involved in funding and producing movies, particularly those films that bring a wholesome and inspiring message to the screen. “This is such a remarkable story and movies like this perform so well,” he said. “The market seems hungry for true, positive and inspirational dramas.”
Eckhart is repped by CAA, Wittrock by ICM Partners and Weissenbach Management.