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Jesse Owens Biopic – ‘Race’ – Gets a Theatrical Release Date + William Hurt Joins Cast

Jesse Owens Biopic - 'Race' - Gets a Theatrical Release Date + William Hurt Joins Cast

In case you missed the announcement months ago, John Boyega is no no longer attached to star, because of his new commitment to “Star Wars: Episode VII.” He’s been replaced by Stephan James to play Jesse Owens in the biopic titled “Race,” from Forecast Pictures and ID+. 

The up-and-comer is a Canadian film and television actor, whose past notable roles include Julian Williams in “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” and Everton St. Clair in Sudz Sutherland’s feature film “Home Again,” for which he received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 1st Canadian Screen Awards.

His future looks quite bright, with roles in upcoming film and TV projects like Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” and Clement Virgo’s “The Book of Negroes.”

Starring as Jesse Owens should only further raise his industry profile, leading to even more work.

I should note that this is not the Jesse Owens biopic that Anthony Mackie has long been trying to make (he’s called it his dream project, although there hasn’t been any movement on it in ages); nor is it the Antoine Fuqua/Disney Jesse Owens project, based on ESPN anchor Jeremy Schaap’s book, “Triumph” – making it the 3rd Jesse Owens project in development.

Which will make it to the finish line first?

“Race” is off to a good start, with William Hurt, Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis and Carice van Houten joining the cast, Germany’s Square On and Canada’s Entertainment One (eOne) jumping on-board to co-produce, and Focus Features attached to release Stateside, announcing today a release date of the drama for April 8, 2016. 

“Race” will be directed by Stephen Hopkins (“The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”), from a script penned by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel.

The project will…

… focus on how Owens, the son of an Alabama sharecropper, shattered Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by winning a record four gold medals in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the long jump and the 400-meter relay. Owens’ victories are considered among the greatest atlhetic feats of all time.

It’s a project that has the backing of the Jesse Owens Foundation, and the Jesse Owens Trust, so it shouldn’t face the same kind of hurdles that other recent biopics have had to wrestle.

By the way, Laurens Grant’s acclaimed 2011 Jesse Owens documentary, co-produced by Stanley Nelson –  the team behind the Emmy-Award-winning documentary “Freedom Riders” – is available on home video.

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