EXCLUSIVE: Relativity Studios is on the final lap to acquire the script for a Jesse Owens biopic that has Anthony Mackie aboard to star as the heroic American sprinter who dominated the 1936 Berlin Olympics much to the chagrin of Adolf Hitler. If the deal makes the studio will also finance the project, I’m told, which has been on Mackie’s wish list for years and was first shopped back in May 2014.
Pending negotiations, the deal will go out in the fast lane to directors. The tentative plan I understand is to start production in October to get the film out by the 2016 Summer Olympics, which would mark the 80th anniversary of Owens’ dramatic Games when he won four gold medals and left Hitler’s prized athletes — and Hitler’s theory that the Germans were the superior race — choking on his dust.
Mackie fueled the project after getting together with his We Are Marshall scribe Jamie Linden originally and George Olson penned the original script under their supervision. Jason Spire, Linden and Olson and are aboard as producers now. Robbie Brenner will oversee for Relativity.
This is not the first Owens pic in the running around town, with Focus Features already snagging a release date for Race, starring Stephan James as Owens. That movie, directed by Stephen Hopkins and penned by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel, began shooting last fall with a cast that includes William Hurt, Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis and Carice van Houten. Disney also is developing a biopic based on the Jeremy Schaap book Triumph, with The King’s Speech scribe David Seidler scripting.
Mackie is as busy as ever on the movie front. In December, Paramount acquired the comedy spec package Make A Wish with Mackie, Dear White People helmer Justin Simien and the 2013 Black List comedy script at its center — also produced by Spire and exec produced by Mackie. He also debuts as Falcon in the next Captain America pic and stars in John Hillcoat’s Triple 9. Other films on the horizon: Our Brand Is Crisis, from Warner Bros and David Gordon Green opposite Sandra Bullock, and Sony’s untitled Christmas comedy alongside Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Mackie and Spire are repped by UTA, Linden by Paradigm, and Olson by Magnet Management.