Thursday, July 17, 2014

Focus Features Acquires Rights to Jesse Owens Biopic RACE

Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Jesse Owens

From our friends at Focus Features...

Focus Features Acquires U.S. Distribution Rights to Jesse Owens Biopic RACE; Filming Starts Next Week

Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons Join Cast of Drama Depicting Sports Legend

Focus Features has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the drama Race. Jason Sudeikis is joining fellow cast member, Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons, in the spectacular true story of Olympic legend Jesse Owens, who will be portrayed by rising star Stephan James. Mister Smith Entertainment is handling worldwide sales on Race.

Race, to be directed by Emmy® Award winner Stephen Hopkins, begins principal photography on July 24th in Montreal and on location at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, where the real-life hero won a record-breaking four Olympic gold medals in 1936. The new film has the support of the Owens family, the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group.

Race is based on the incredible true story of Jesse Owens, the legendary athletic superstar whose quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. Race is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend.

Sudeikis will star as Owens’ obsessive coach and mentor Larry Snyder, who, after a prestigious track career himself, became a coach at Ohio State University. Snyder coached athletes who set 14 world records and won eight Olympic gold medals.

Irons will portray Avery Brundage, the head of the American Olympic committee who fought to have the 1936 Olympics take place in Berlin.

Race is written by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel. The movie is produced by Jean Charles Lévy for Forecast Pictures, Luc Dayan for ID+, Kate Garwood and Stephen Hopkins for Totally Commercial Films, Louis-Philippe Rochon and Dominique Séguin for Canada’s Solofilms, and Karsten Brünig and Thierry Potok for Germany’s Trinity Race GmbH.

Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel commented, “We are proud to be the U.S. distributor of the inspirational story of Jesse Owens – a sports hero who exemplified perseverance, courage and grace, and whose story will resonate with audiences of all generations.”

Hopkins said, “I'm excited we've assembled such an impressive cast to tell this extraordinary story. Stephen James is an amazing discovery, a rare star-in-the-making, who has the charisma and talent to embody the incredible spirit of Jesse Owens. We are also excited to have Jason Sudeikis, an actor of extraordinary talent, in his first big-screen dramatic role. Together they will recreate the chemistry and life-long friendship of Jesse Owens and his young, maverick coach Larry Snyder - who challenged not only the Olympic committee but the Nazis themselves. We're also lucky enough to have Jeremy Irons, playing the controversial head of the Olympic committee, Avery Brundage.”

Mister Smith Entertainment CEO David Garrett added, “This was a story waiting to be made for nearly 80 years. The production team have done an incredible job of bringing this all together and we are thrilled to be partnered with Focus as they have shown real passion and vision for the project.”

The film’s executive producers include Christopher Charlier, Ben Grass, Scott Kennedy, Bonnie Timmermann, George Acogny, Nicolas Manuel, Jonathan Bronfman, and Al Munteanu. Square One, which is also distributing the film in Germany, is a co-producer on the film. eOne is distributing Race in Canada.

Former Saturday Night Live standout, Sudeikis starred in last summer’s hit We’re The Millers and now is filming the male lead in the Leslye Headland-helmed Sleeping With Other People. He is also working alongside Zach Galafianakis, Owen Wilson and Kristen Wiig in the Jared Hess-directed heist comedy formerly known as Loomis Fargo. Sudeikis just finished starring opposite Rebecca Hall in the indie romantic feature Tumbledown, and he also is reprising his role in Horrible Bosses 2, which is set for release this Thanksgiving weekend.

Irons won the Academy Award® for Best Actor for his performance as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. This fall he will also film Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice playing the role of Alfred Pennyworth.

James, currently filming the Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma, next month stars in When the Game Stands Tall, with Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern, and Michael Chiklis.

Hopkins’ previous features include The Ghost and The Darkness, Under Suspicion and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, which competed for a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won Hopkins an Emmy Award for Best Director.

Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Stephen Hopkins, Anna Waterhouse, and Joe Shrapnel are represented by CAA. Sudeikis is also represented by Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Stephan James is represented by Innovative Artists and Noble Caplan Abrams.

Mister Smith Entertainment concluded the US sale with Focus Features and handled international sales on the project.

About Focus Features:
Focus Features ( makes, acquires, and releases movies from rising and established talent and filmmakers. The company is moving forward with a diverse slate of nine to eleven films a year, with most being wide releases appealing to a range of moviegoers. Staying true to the company's roots, the slate will also include several specialty films each year.

Upcoming Focus Features films include Wish I Was Here, a comedy directed by Zach Braff which also stars Braff along with Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin; The Boxtrolls, the new family event movie from LAIKA, directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable with a voice cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, and Tracy Morgan; the true-life dramatic thriller Kill the Messenger, directed by Michael Cuesta and starring Jeremy Renner; and The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne, as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, along with Felicity Jones.

Focus Features is part of NBCUniversal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.