EXCLUSIVE: After turning the Jackie Robinson-Branch Rickey story 42 into a hit, Legendary Pictures is now targeting Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi for a feature film. Legendary has made a deal with All Is Lost and Margin Call writer-director J.C. Chandor to write with an eye to direct a feature about the coaching legend who led Green Bay to five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowl titles. Legendary, whose principal Thomas Tull is a part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a passionate pigskin fan, will produce the film with Mary Parent. She produced Pacific Rim and Godzilla for Legendary. Tony Ponturo and Fran Kirmser will be exec producers.
Chandor, who made his feature directing debut on his Oscar-nominated script Margin Call, is once again in the awards season conversation for his follow-up All Is Lost, which stars Robert Redford as a man struggling to survive on the open seas. Chandor is casting up his next directorial outing, A Most Violent Year, which will star Jessica Chastain with production to begin early next year.
He has already begun writing the new film, and Legendary has assembled a rights package that includes a deal with the Lombardi estate, as well as the Broadway play written by Eric Simonson that starred Dan Lauria and Judith Light. That play was based on the David Marannis book When Pride Still Mattered, and that is also part of the package.
Even though Lombardi built a team so dominant that the NFL put his name on the Super Bowl trophy, he was a decided underdog in the journeyman’s quest to become a head coach. Lombardi, a fiery disciplinarian, seemed stuck when he was offensive line coach of a New York Giants team that lost the 1958 championship game. His Giants counterpart on the defense, the cool Tom Landry, was signed to head the Dallas Cowboys after being widely courted. Lombardi practically had to beg to run a Packers team so dismal that other team owners wanted to fold the franchise. Lombardi turned the team into perennial winners, and got his showdown with Landry in the 1967 league championship game, known as the Ice Bowl because it was played in 13 below zero temperatures. The Packers won.
This becomes the second high-profile picture in the works on Lombardi. Eric Roth has scripted a Lombardi film for Robert De Niro to star in in a project that is being developed by De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions, ESPN Films, the National Football League and Andell Entertainment. The intention was to have had that one done already, but I’m not sure if it deserves to be flagged for delay of game or if it lost steam. Roth was basing that one on Instant Replay, the memoir by Packers lineman Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap. Last I heard, De Niro had stepped off that project as an actor, and they were eyeing John Travolta.
Chandor is repped by WME.
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