From Tiger Woods to Drew Brees, these recent, real-life sports stories stand the best chance in Hollywood.
David O. Russell’s The Fighter told the inspirational story of “Irish” Micky Ward’s (Mark Wahlberg) unlikely rise to the featherweight title amid family turmoil in downtrodden Lowell, Massachusetts. By all accounts, the story was built for Hollywood. It explored a sport known for its underdogs, comebacks, and larger-than-life characters—think Rocky, Cinderella Man, Ali, and Raging Bull. The movie’s acting and writing has earned critical acclaim for Christian Bale, who plays Ward’s crack-addicted brother and trainer, and Melissa Leo, Ward’s overbearing mother. Both won Golden Globes for their supporting roles.
But The Fighter is in the minority here. With sports movies, too often are we stuck with crap like The Legend of Bagger Vance and Mr. 3000 (note: Bernie, I still love you). Russell’s film is the rare sports movie that works both as a narrative and an entertaining spectacle.
Inspired by The Fighter’s success, let’s see what story lines of the past year have a better chance at becoming more Hoosiers and less Like Mike.
The 19th Hole
Tiger Woods: Forgive the crude title. You know the story. Sex, drugs, car crashes, an epic fall from grace. It’s all there. The once-invincible golden boy who’s been reduced to an inconsistent golfer, serial adulterer, and possible drug abuser. Sure, it’ll be depressing, but if someone can make The Road work, then I don’t see a problem with the Tiger Woods story. And hopefully we’ll see a sequel of redemption and a return to success (Please, for the love of God. I want to care about golf again). Will Smith as Tiger and Heidi Klum as Elin Nordegren.
Two words: Michael Vick. There’s a strong narrative arc in Vick’s ascension: Virginia Tech phenom, star quarterback with the Falcons, dog fighting and jail, then back to star with the Eagles. Think a real-life The Longest Yard—except you won’t walk out halfway through because Tracy Morgan plays a cheerleader. Omar Epps as Vick and the guy who played Garfield—wait, that was a cartoon? OK, Philip Seymour Hoffman plus 80 pounds as Andy Reid.
Katrina to Lombardi
The Saints’ Super Bowl victory was a story with a true hero. Drew Brees saves New Orleans and his career, guiding the bumbling franchise and distraught city to a Super Bowl. Plus, I’m sure Peyton Manning will want to play himself. The Saints galvanized a city to show the ultimate power of sports on society. What’s more Hollywood than that? Brees’ role goes to Matt Damon, of course—just to stick it to Boston.
Butler basketball: the real-life Hoosiers with Gordon Hayward as Jimmy Chitwood. Cinderella comes up just short with Hayward’s half-court buzzer beater rattling the backboard and front rim. The villains are none other than Coach K. and his easy-to-hate blue-chip Dukies, finally overpowering the scrappy underdogs. Paul Dano as Gordon Hayward. Wait, are we sure Paul Dano isn’t Gordon Hayward?
Pay to Play: The NCAA Model
“Scam” Newton: There needs to be a movie about how corrupt the NCAA can be. And what better jumping-off point than the greatest individual season in college football history? The documentary begins with Newton stealing laptops at Florida and ends with a national championship victory in Tucson. The villain could easily be Newton, but his money-grubbing dad steals the spotlight amid an embarrassing lack of NCAA regulation and enforcement. Directed by the Zimbalist brothers.
—Photo David Barrie/Flickr