Even with his usual doses of humility and self-deprecation, it was tough for ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap to conceal the excitement in his voice on Monday, after confirming Disney had secured the movie rights to his 2007 book, “Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics.”
“It is exciting,” Schaap said. “I don’t have any experience with this kind of stuff – I’ve never worked in Hollywood. I know it’s a long process but I think it’s a great topic. I think Jesse is an incredibly important historical figure and one who is worthy of something like this. What he did in Berlin in 1936 is one of most remarkable things in the annals of sports.”
The biopic, according to Variety, which broke news of the deal on Monday, has Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Shooter” and “Olympus Has Fallen”) attached to the project to direct with Oscar-winning screenwriter, David Seidler (“The King’s Speech”) penning the script. Gil Netter (“The Blind Side,” “The Life Of Pi”), Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun will produce and Schaap will have a consulting role on the film.
“I always hoped a movie would come out of it but you never know what’s going to happen,” said Schaap, 44. “My father [the late Dick Schaap] wrote 33 books and none were adapted – although they’ve been trying to make a movie about ‘Instant Replay’ for 40 years.”
Jeremy’s other book, “Cinderella Man,” a “New York Times” bestseller which “The Economist” called “a classic,” was published in 2005. (A movie of that same title starring Russell Crowe was released the same year, but that was an entirely separate project and did not involve Schaap.)
Asked what his father would think of the news, Schaap said, “I’m sure my dad would want to know the numbers, first of all, and I’m sure he’d want a cameo – which he had in the 1977 movie, ‘Semi-Tough,’ where he played a sports reporter. He was only mildly convincing in that role.”
He credits the 2013 Jackie Robinson biopic “42” with once again proving sports stories can make for great theater.
“One of my favorite movies, ‘Chariots of Fire,’ about the 1924 Olympics demonstrated you can make stories like this come alive,” Schaap said.