Rising star Stephan James will play Olympic legend Owens, as TheWrap first reported.
Emmy winner Stephen Hopkins is directing the movie, which starts filming on July 24 in Montreal and on location at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, where Owens 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 faced off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. An inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend, “Race” will explore courage, determination, tolerance and friendship.
Tackling his first dramatic role on the big screen, Sudeikis will co-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.
Written by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel, “Race” is being 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. Mister Smith Entertainment is handling worldwide sales on “Race.”
“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,” said Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel.
“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,” said Hopkins.
“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,” added Mister Smith Entertainment CEO David Garrett.
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.
A former standout on “Saturday Night Live,” Sudeikis starred in last summer’s hit “We’re The Millers” and is currently filming the male lead in Leslye Headland’s indie “Sleeping With Other People.” He’s 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’s also reprising his role in “Horrible Bosses 2,” which is set for release this Thanksgiving weekend.
Irons, who won as Oscar for “Reversal of Fortune,” will spend the fall filming Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” in which he’ll play Alfred Pennyworth.
James, who’s currently filming the Martin Luther King Jr. drama “Selma,” next stars alongside Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern and Michael Chiklis in Sony’s “When the Game Stands Tall.”
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.
Sudeikis, Irons, Hopkins, Waterhouse and 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.