EXCLUSIVE: John Travolta will star as speedboat racing champion Don Aronow in Speed Kills, the John Luessenhop-directed drama backed by Hannibal that will film in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Miami Beach starting May 30. Hannibal’s Richard Rionda Del Castro is producing with Oscar Generale and Luillo Ruiz of the Pimienta Film Company in Puerto Rico. Friday Night LightsDavid Aaron Cohen wrote the script with Luessenhop. Paul Castro, a writer with close personal ties to the Aronow family, is consulting on the script.

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Travolta is coming off playing defense attorney Robert Shapiro in The People v. O.J. Simpson, for which he got an
Emmy nom, and most recently wrapped playing the title character in The Life and Death of John Gotti. He takes on another larger-than-life character in Aronow, a womanizing multimillionaire who created the Cigarette and other speedboats and sold them to presidents, the Shah of Iran, Malcolm Forbes and pop stars. At his height, he did business with the U.S. government and drug cartels at the same time — a double life that led to his mysterious murder in 1987 while he sat in his car in Miami.

Travolta will be exec producer with Anson Downes, Linda Favila, Patricia Eberle, Timothy Cavanaugh, Cam Cannon, Lindsey Roth, Richard Lechartier, Christophe Verneau, Walter Josten of Blue Rider Pictures and also Grace Collins.

“I like biopic films,” Travolta said. “They are fascinating to me, and real-life characters are always interesting to play. … This is a great story.”

Luessenhop helmed Texas Chainsaw 3-D and Takers. “Once I starting learning about Don Aronow’s life, I jumped at the opportunity to bring this story to the big screen,” he said. “John Travolta is the perfect actor to bring Aronow’s story to life.”

Hannibal Classics is selling worldwide rights and expects to be done by the end of the Cannes Film Festival.

Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, said “Puerto Rico is excited to welcome the Film Production of Speed Kills to our beautiful island. Being trusted by an incredible project like this one is yet another proof that the people of Puerto Rico’s talent, hard work and compromise is unparalleled. The Government of Puerto Rico wants to reiterate that we are open for business.”