As Deadline was first to reveal, Focus Features has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Race. with Stephan James playing Olympian Jesse Owens, opposite Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons, in the Stephen Hopkins-directed. Mister Smith Entertainment is handling worldwide sales on Race. The film starts production this month, and it is one of several films about the sprinter who ruined Hitler’s plans to showcase the superiority of German athletes in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This film has the support of the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group.
Sudeikis will star as Owens’ obsessive coach and mentor Larry Snyder, who, after a prestigious track career himself, became a coach at Ohio State University. Snyder coached athletes who set 14 world records and won eight Olympic gold medals. Irons will portray Avery Brundage, the head of the American Olympic committee who fought to have the 1936 Olympics take place in Berlin. Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel wrote the script, and produced by Jean Charles Lévy for Forecast Pictures, Luc Dayan for ID+, Kate Garwood and Stephen Hopkins for Totally Commercial Films, Louis-Philippe Rochon and Dominique Séguin for Canada’s Solofilms, and Karsten Brünig and Thierry Potok for Germany’s Trinity Race GmbH.
There are several other Jesse Owens film in the works. Disney is developing a movie based on the Jeremy Schaap book Triumph, with The King’s Speech scribe David Seidler scripting a full scale biopic. Another package has Anthony Mackie hoping to play the sprinter and Jamie Linden and Jason Spire producing a script by George Olson, and there is also another film with Greg Nava writing and directing, and Bill Gerber producing. That script centers on the incredible but largely unknown relationship between Owens and Lutz Long that began at the ’36 Olympics despite Hitler’s anger over the sportsmanship these two athletes showed each other. The story also includes the heroic but tragic events concerning runners Stoller and Glickman and Fencer Helene Mayer. There is a lot of rich terrain here, but as usual, these things become a footrace.