EXCLUSIVE: On the anniversary of his 1939 retirement from baseball, late great New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig will be the subject of a new feature that has gotten a rare endorsement from the Yankees, the only team for which he played. The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth will be directed by Jay Russell, the helmer behind My Dog Skip and Ladder 49. Based on the Jonathan Eig biography Luckiest Man, the film has a script by Dan Kay.
Branded Entertainment’s Michael Uslan and David Uslan head a producing team that includes Kingsway Productions’ Robert Molloy and Conglomerate Media’s Armando Gutierrez. Barrie Osborne and Jeff Steen are exec producing, and casting will get underway this month.
Gehrig’s life previously was captured in the 1942 film The Pride of the Yankees, which starred Gary Cooper as Gehrig and won one of the 11 Oscars for which it was nominated. Gehrig is a true baseball immortal, a Hall of Famer who starred on six World Series-winning teams but was as understated as teammate Babe Ruth was verbose. He is best remembered for playing in 2,130 consecutive games and for the courage he showed when the incurable neuro-muscular disorder ALS began to ravage his body, forcing his retirement and eventually claiming his life. The movie covers all those heroics but also focuses on his love affair with wife Eleanor.
“If Lou Gehrig was an Iron Man, his wife Eleanor was an Iron Woman,” said Michael Uslan.
“Lou Gehrig is an iconic character, not just in baseball, but as a true American hero, a man who faced his intense personal battles with quiet bravery,” said Russell. “While Gehrig’s story has previously been told in the beloved Pride of the Yankees, this will be a new depiction with a more contemporary style and approach.
Molloy, grandson of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, said: “As my late grandfather always believed, Lou Gehrig was a great role model for the world. There is triumph even in tragedy, and it’s only in the face of great odds that true human heroes are born and inspire us all.”
Osborne, the producer of Apocalypse Now and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, said Gehrig’s life and accomplishments have that kind of epic sweep. “What I love most about the project,” he said, “is the fact that audiences need know nothing about sports, baseball, the Yankees or even the legend of Lou Gehrig in order to be moved by this emotionally uplifting story.”
Russell is repped by APA, Zero Gravity Management and Gang, Tyre; the Uslans are with WME and Manatt Phelps & Phillips; Kay is repped by APA, Circle of Confusion and Myman Greenspan; and Osborne is with Gersh and Stankevich Law Inc.