EXCLUSIVE: Angelo Pizzo, the screenwriter behind such titles as Hoosiers and Rudy, is looking to complete a trifecta of iconic sports films with an upcoming title centered on automotive entrepreneur Carl Graham Fisher and the inaugural 1911 running of the Indianapolis 500, which Justin Escue will direct for Above The Line Productions, Diverse Media Group, T-Minus Productions and his company, My First Bike Productions.
This year’s Indy 500 is scheduled to take place this Sunday, May 29. The race sits alongside the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hour of Le Mans as part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport—maintaining a reputation as one of the world’s most prestigious motorsport events.
Fisher, the protagonist of the as-yet-untitled feature, is an enigmatic, and until now mostly forgotten, true American anti-hero, responsible for not only the greatest spectacle in racing, but the building and creation of Miami Beach, Montauk Island, America’s first highways and byways, and so much more. He spurred the construction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—where the Indy 500 takes place—as a testing facility for the automotive industry. He was also a pioneer in highway construction, who spearheaded the development of the the United States’ first transcontinental road for automobiles, known as the Lincoln Highway, among other critical means of travel. While Fisher was worth an estimated $100M by 1926, he lost it all in the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression that followed. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1971.
Bryan O’Connell will produce the upcoming Indy film alongside TJ White and Lauren White for T-Minus Productions, with Turner James Woodward, Turner John Woodward and Justin Tysdal serving as executive producers. Pic is fully funded, with producers looking to go out to actors in the next few weeks. Veteran stunt coordinator TJ White and his wife Lauren White will oversee the film’s stunts and car sequences via their company T-Minus Productions, with famed track architect Paxton Waters building a scale version of the track in Indianapolis, as it was in 1911.
“For me this story is a perfect way to round out a trilogy and tell the true story of a larger than life character about and among other things, one of the “greatest sports controversies never talked about,” said Pizzo.
Aded Indiana native Escue: “I’ve been around the block in the film world, working in cities like, Austin, Chicago, and Los Angeles, so it’s nice to be able to get back to my home state and not only tell a story which has such meaning to me but also help create [a] sustainable industry in the community.”
Pizzo is a writer, director and producer who broke out with a pair of films penned for director David Anspaugh. The first was 1986’s Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper, which watched as a coach with a checkered past and a local drunk trained a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship. That film for Orion Pictures went on to land Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Hopper) and Original Score (Jerry Goldsmith).
The scribe’s follow-up film was Rudy, starring Sean Astin, Jon Favreau and Ned Beatty, which told the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. While Rudy (Astin) had always been told that he was too small to play college football, he was determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing for Notre Dame. TriStar Pictures distributed that drama, released in 1993.
Pizzo also wrote 2015’s The Game of Their Lives. He subsequently wrote and directed the football drama My All-American, based on the book Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story by Jim Dent, which starred Aaron Eckhart, Finn Wittrock and Robin Tunney. He is currently in post on the Dennis Quaid baseball film The Hill directed by Jeff Celentano, which he co-wrote with Scott Marshall Smith.
Escue’s directing credits include the feature Top 8 Tour the Movie and the IndistryTv.com series, #2WheelzNHeelz. He produced the features Saving Star Wars and Open Mic’rs, and is currently developing a scripted limited series with Michael Douglas’ Furthur Films. He’s also collaborating with George Harrison’s sister, Louise, on a documentary about the famed Beatle called My Kid Brother’s Band.
Pizzo is repped by Goodman, Genow, Schenkman; Escue by MIR Consulting.