Michael Phelps, One Landmark, and Three More Olympic Athletes Whose Stories Could Be Movies
Cue John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" — or if you don't want to be reminded of Ewoks, the Clash's "London Calling." The 2012 Summer Games officially begin tonight with a Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony that, according to ABC News, will include a reference to James Bond and 120 farm animals. The spectacle won't end there. Unless this year's games totally suck, the next two weeks will be rife with emotional movie-worthy moments of victory, defeat and the U.S. Women's Volleyball team's hot bikinis.
The Olympics have yet to produce a truly outstanding biographical movie, but hope springs eternal. And in the interest of putting a well-traveled torch under Hollywood's ass, here are Movieline's top five picks for Olympics-themed movie biopic hopefuls in ascending order.
5. Michael Phelps: Arguably the greatest American Olympic athlete of all time, Phelps has won 16 medals and broken or tied all kinds of records. He’s got a physique millions of guys would kill for, and after his showing in the 2008 games in Beijing, he rocketed to fame, earning a Speedo-load of endorsements and Sports Illustrated's 2008 Sportsman of the Year honor. Once the cheering stopped, however, Phelps packed on 25 pounds and lost at least his Kellogg's endorsement when he was photographed smoking a bong. (Perhaps that had something to do with the weight gain as well.) A lack of real dramatic tension might be a problem in any movie about Phelps, but the Summer Games — which the 27-year-old athlete says will be his last — may provide the needed drama. Phelps will compete in seven swimming events in London.
Who should play him: Adam Driver (Girls). He was born to play this part.
Who should direct: Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Their upcoming film, The Pool, is about a swim instructor, and Blades of Glory showed they can do sports films.
4. Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani: The judo competitor will make history by becoming the first homegrown Saudi Arabian woman to represent her country in London. The Saudis have refused to send female participants in the past but relented this year thanks to international pressure. Shahrkhani did not qualify for the games, but instead got a special invitation from the International Olympic Committee. Her participation will make the London Olympics the first in which every country will have female competitors. Just 18 years old, Shahrkhani has trained almost exclusively in her hometown of Mecca. She is scheduled to compete in the over-78-kilogram judo competition, but CBS News reported that the Olympic Federation won't permit her to wear a hijab (head scarf) during the competition, which may force her to bow out.
Who Should Play Her: Hailee Steinfeld. An unlikely choice, but the kid's got chops. She'd have to do what De Niro did in Raging Bull and pack on some weight though.
Who Should Direct: Marc Forster (The Kite Runner)
3. The Olympic Village: If the Village could talk, what stories it would tell! Save for the filthy rich tennis players and basketball stars who can afford to stay in one of London's pricey hotels, the majority of Olympic athletes will spend their time hanging here when they're not competing. And when the games wind down, the Village transforms into a hedonist’s paradise. Stories of booze-fueled all-night ragers and the kind of casual, athletic sex that would make a Secret Service agent blush are par for the course. It's The Hangover starring world class athletes.
Who Should Star: An ensemble cast that should include Ryan Reynolds, Allison Williams, Channing Tatum, James Franco and Danny McBride.
Who Should Direct: Steve Pink. With Hot Tub Time Machine, he showed that he's effective with large casts and comedies that end up amounting to a lot more than a bunch of laughs.
2. Oscar Pistorius: Thirty years after Ridley Scott's Blade Runner opened, the "Blade Runner" will make Olympic history in London.The South African sprinter, who became a double amputee when he was only 11 months old, will become the first man in the history of the games to compete with prosthetic legs. In 2008, Pistorius won the right to compete in the Olympics when a ban on athletes with prosthetic legs was overturned, but he failed to make the South African team. He’ll compete in the 400-meter run with his artificial carbon-fiber "Cheetah Flex-Foot" limbs — and not without controversy. Some claim the prosthetics give him an advantage over runners with flesh-and-bone legs.
Who Should Play Him: Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) He's got the looks and build to play an athlete. He's also an Aussie, which should make it a breeze to perfect Pistorius' South African accent.
Who Should Direct: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) He's nimble with CGI, which will be a must, and he knows how to put a rousing, human story on the screen.
1. Lopez Lomong: In 2010, New Line announced that it was developing a picture about the 27-year-old Lomong's extraordinary life, and we certainly hope it makes it to the cineplex. (A New Line rep tells Movieline the project is no longer at the studio. Another industry source says the picture is in turnaround.) Until then, we'll make do with the Visa commercial that's currently running. One of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan, Lomong was just six years old when he was abducted by the Sudan People's Liberation Army. He and three other boys escaped through a hole in their prison camp fence and ran for days until they reached Kenya. At 16, Lomong relocated to the U.S. after an essay he wrote to a Catholic charity spurred the organization to bring him stateside. He eventually found himself at Northern Arizona University where he became an NCAA champion and last month he qualified for his second Olympics in the 5,000-meter run. In 2008 in Beijing, he was the American flagbearer for the Opening Ceremonies.
Who Should Play Him: Omar Sy. The French actor is in his mid-30s, but his powerful performance in The Intouchables suggests he could do justice to Lomong's story.
Who Should Direct: Tom McCarthy. Just watch The Visitor and you will agree.
The 2012 Olympics officially kick off in London tonight. Which athletes with great stories have caught your eye?
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