Anthony Mackie & Stephan James to Lead Two Jesse Owens Biopics
by Ethan Anderton
May 29, 2014
With John Boyega taking a major role in Star Wars: Episode VII, that left the lead role in the Jesse Owens biopic Race open for the taking. Now The Wrap reports rising star Stephan James, currently shooting the civil rights drama Selma, has landed the role following the iconic African-American track-and-field star who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany and won four gold medals after his humble beginnings saw him growing up in 1920s Cleveland, and eventually ending up in Alabama. That's where the film from director Stephen Hopkins (Blown Away) will begin. But it's not the only Jesse Owens project on the way.
Deadline has word that Anthony Mackie is trying hard to get his own Jesse Owens biopic off the ground with the intention of producing the film with We Are Marshall writer Jamie Linden and also starring in the film as the quick Olympian. Mackie is getting ready to shop the film around to distributors with a script from George Olsen, and they're hoping to fast track the feature that will focus on the lead-up to the 1936 Olympic games where Hitler refused to shake hands with the runner (which is probably for the best considering the future of the tyrannical leader). But at the same time, Franklin D. Roosevelt wouldn't shake the man's hand in public either, showing just how racist the times were.
However, both of these projects have some other competition, because Disney also has their own Jesse Owens biopic in development. Previously, it was said Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua was attached to direct the film which will be written by The King's Speech scribe David Seidler, adapted the book Triumph by ESPN anchor Jeremy Schaap. However, Fuqua is pretty busy (with Narco Sub being the latest addition to his future slate), and there's no guarantee that this project will stick. It's a shame all these projects couldn't come together to make the best Owens biopic possible.