USA Network has ordered limited series Evel, based on the story of larger-than-life ’70s daredevil Evel Knievel. Starring and executive produced by This Is Us‘ Milo Ventimiglia, it hails from from McG’s Wonderland Sound & Vision, UCP and Atlas Entertainment.
Written by Etan Frankel (Animal Kingdom), Evel falls into USA’s wheelhouse of “heroes, rebels & icons” focused on big stories about big American characters.
The limited series is based on the story of Evel Knievel (Ventimiglia) as he prepares for his greatest death-defying feat — the historic Snake River Canyon jump. Evel is an exhilarating portrait of a complex man living the American dream, juggling meteoric celebrity and raising a family — and facing the very real probability that his next jump will kill him.
Frankel will executive produce with McG, Mary Viola and Steven Bello of Wonderland Sound & Vision; Alex Gartner, Charles Roven and Topher Rhys-Lawrence of Atlas Entertainment; and Ventimiglia. Ventimiglia’s longtime producing partner, Russ Cundiff, will co-executive produce via the duo’s DiVide Pictures. Filming is expected to begin in 2020.
Evel had been in the works at USA for a while. It got on a fast track once Ventimiglia sought it out and came on board to play the daredevil icon. For McG, this brings to fruition a longtime passion — he signed up to direct an Evel Knievel feature biopic, Pure Evel, more than seven years ago. It was in development at USA and UCP sibling Universal Pictures.
“USA Network is known for big event series that celebrate heroes, rebels and icons, and what could be bigger than the story of one of the greatest thrillseekers of all time?” said Chris McCumber, President of Entertainment Networks – USA Network and Syfy. “The incredible life and journey of Evel Knievel lends itself to a dramatic retelling, and we are excited to be partnering with Milo, McG, UCP, Atlas and Wonderland to bring this iconic American tale to our viewers.”
In addition to the Universal Pictures project, in the past few years there have been two other attempts at doing an Evel Knievel feature film by Paramount and Sony.
There have been two produced Evel Knievel movies to date, the 1971 feature starring George Hamilton and the 2004 TNT TV movie headlined by George Eads.
Ventimiglia stars in the acclaimed NBC drama series This Is Us as family patriarch Jack Pearson, a role that has earned him three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In 2016, he reprised his role as Jess in the continuation of the drama Gilmore Girls, which returned with four 90-minute episodes. His other television credits include Heroes, Frank Darabont’s Mob City and American Dreams.
Ventimiglia is onscreen alongside Kevin Costner and Amanda Seyfried in the feature film The Art of Racing in the Rain, an adaptation of the international best-selling novel by Garth Stein. His other film credits include the romantic comedy Second Act, Rocky Balboa, Adam Sandler’s That’s My Boy and Grown Ups 2.
Frankel worked as a writer-producer on John Wells’ adaptation of UK comedy-drama Shameless from 2011-16, rising to executive producer on the flagship Showtime series. He then segued to another Wells-produced series based on a format, TNT’s Animal Kingdom, as an executive producer.