EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has set Barry Jenkins to write the script for a coming of age drama based on the life of the first Olympic boxing champ Claressa “T-Rex” Shields. Jenkins wrote and directed Moonlight, another coming of age tale that was the sleeper of the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, and A24 opens it October 21. Michael De Luca and Elishia Holmes are producing the film for Michael De Luca Productions banner, and Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper will be the executive producers.
This comes after the studio last March acquired Shields’ life rights and the rights to the 2015 boxing documentary T-Rex, which debuted on Netflix in the summer. That film told the Rocky-esque story of a 17-year-old Flint, MI fighter who realized her dream to become the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing. Canepari and Cooper directed the docu, and Shields proved she was no flash in the pan, winning her second Gold Medal in the Summer Games in Rio. Her story is evocative of a movie like Girlfight, and Jenkins has the canvas to craft a popcorn sports movie with a female empowerment message. It also has a storybook history making finish, when Shields won gold in the middleweight class in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Executive Vice President of Production Erik Baiers and Creative Executive Mika Pryce will oversee the project for the studio.
Jenkins fell in love with Shields’ story a while ago, but the deal took time. He has since become hot stuff after Moonlight received standing ovations in both Telluride and Toronto. He hasn’t set his next directing job, but he subsequently re-teamed with Moonlight producer Plan B for a limited series based on Colson Whitehead’s bestselling novel The Underground Railroad. The Doubleday book is a National Book Award finalist, and the series is being shopped. Jenkins is represented by CAA, Jewerl Ross of Silent R Management, and Jamie Feldman of Lichter, Grossman.
Here is a clip from the T-Rex docu: