“Race,” a biographical drama about Olympic track and field star Jesse Owens, will cross the finish line at Focus Features, which has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.
Canadian actor Stephan James will portray Owens, whose quest to become the greatest track athlete in history thrust him onto the world stage of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he challenged Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy.
A relative newcomer, James, 20, also has a small role in “Selma,” director Ava DuVernay’s upcoming biopic about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In “Race,” James will be joined by cast members Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons, Focus announced Wednesday. Sudeikis will play Owens’ obsessive coach and mentor, Larry Snyder, and Irons will play Avery Brundage, the head of the American Olympic Committee who fought to have the 1936 Games take place in Berlin.
“I’m excited we’ve assembled such an impressive cast to tell this extraordinary story,” director Stephen Hopkins said in a statement. He is directing “Race” from a script by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel.
Principal photography begins this month in Montreal and on location at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, where Owens won a record-breaking four Olympic gold medals.
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