Can competing Lance Armstrong movies cross the finish line?
With a documentary about Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace already set for release next month, two feature films about the cyclist are now in a race to hit theaters.
On Tuesday, the production company Working Title announced Ben Foster had been cast as Armstrong in a Stephen Frears-directed biopic set to begin filming Friday. Based on sportswriter David Walsh’s “Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong,” the picture will detail Armstrong’s rise and fall, along with his contentious relationship with Walsh (played by Chris O’Dowd).
The film seems to be moving along more quickly than “Red Blooded American,” a Bradley Cooper-produced and -starring take on the Armstrong saga. Set up at Warner Bros. and developed by director Jay Roach, that movie will touch on the relationship between Armstrong and his former teammate, Tyler Hamilton, who in a “60 Minutes” interview accused the seven-time Tour de France winner of cheating. (After vehement denials, Armstrong later came clean--sort of. The champion was of course stripped of all his Tour de France titles.)
All of this comes as a movie feauturing the real participants prepares to hit the screen. On Nov. 8, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney will bring his movie “The Armstrong Lie” to theaters. The filmmaker initially intended to chronicle the athlete’s triumphs over the course of one comeback season several years ago, but decided to change course when, deep in the edit process, allegations of Armstrong’s doping gained traction. (Incidentally, Sony Pictures and producer Frank Marshall had been prepping its own triumph-of-the-spirit movie based on Armstrong"s “It’s Not About the Bike” for several years but, despite interest from the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, the project began to recede after Armstrong’s problems grew.)
Interest in the Armstrong episode continues even nine months after the cyclist gave his now-famous Oprah Winfrey interview. But will moviegoers continue to care--and, if they do, will they care to support as many as three different movies?
When movies with similar themes are released within a short time span, one always seems to get the short end of the stick. In 2012, “Snow White and the Huntsman” ended up raking in $230 million more worldwide than “Mirror Mirror,” a Snow White tale that had been released several months earlier. And this summer, June’s big-budget “White House Down” collected less at the domestic box office than March’s “Olympus Has Fallen” -- both movies about terrorist attacks on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
It may be that both Armstrong feature projects will wind up crossing the finish line. Wearing the yellow jersey, however, is another matter.
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