Since its release in 2001, the Lance Armstrong autobiography “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” was destined to be a feature film. Sony Pictures gobbled up the rights to it and even registered a domain years ago, and it was really just a matter of when. The history of the development is hazy, as Sony kept the whole process pretty quiet. From the onset, Matt Damon was expected to play Armstrong, but Jake Gyllenhaal became best bros with the cyclist and he really wanted the role. Eventually, Gyllenhaal got what he wanted and he was going to play Armstrong.
By 2009, Seabiscuit writer Gary Ross was attached to pen the screenplay and while it’s still uncertain if Armstrong would be played by Damon or Gyllenhaal, it seemed like this puppy was set to dig up a billion dollars at the box office, with Americans forever beaming over the major accomplishments of Armstrong’s career. But someone at Sony had to know that the window was only being held open by a piece of grass, because a decade of doping accusations could eventually come crashing down.
Boom. Last night.
So now people are asking the most important question of all –
who cares what will come of the Armstrong biopic? Thankfully, Hollywood has someone who knows everything about EVERYTHING to shout, “TOLDJA SO!” Tell us how it all went down, Nikki Finke.
So I raise the question: Did Hollywood miss its chance to tell a fascinating hero’s story? Or is there now an even more complex and interesting saga?
As a huge TdF fan myself, I think what happened to Armstrong tonight is tragic. I also thought a Lance biopic was a natural back in 2006. So why did it take Hollywood so long to put one together? Billy Gerber, the former Warner Bros President turned film producer, tried to sell it years ago after reading Armstrong’s bestselling book It’s Not About The Bike. fast forward, and producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy got lucky that then Columbia Pictures president of production Matt Tolmach was a cycling fanatic. (He could do some of those Tour De France-type climbs — though not as fast.)
Immediately Armstrong and Sony got lucky: then Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal wanted to star. There was a slight resemblance between the two guys, and the actor is even a long-time cyclist. He’d even begun training for the film. The European press went into a speculation frenzy when Lance and Jake first showed up together at the 2006 TdF. (Jake even joined the seven-time TdF winner in the Discovery team car for an Individual Time Trial.) Armstrong, his agent Bill Stapleton, Discovery sports manager Johan Bruyneel, and Tour de France Directors Jean Marie Blanc and Christian Prudhomme all had what insiders at the time called “a heart-to-heart discussion” aboard the Discovery bus about whether the Tour would block the project. Obviously the Tour’s assistance, while not required, would have been helpful to the biopic. Gyllenhaal and Armstrong became pals during Jake’s method process to get to know the sports legend.
And the rest is really confusing history now that Armstrong has been stripped of all of his Tour de France titles because Floyd Landis, a cheater, had such a raging hard-on to prove that Armstrong was a cheater, too, even though nobody has actually proved that he was a cheater.
Either way, I have an idea for Sony on how we can move forward with this project and still salvage a solid profit. We make it a romantic comedy, starring Gyllenhaal as Armstrong and Kristen Wiig as Sheryl Crow, as they reunite and rekindle their romance in the wake of this news. Kate Upton can play Armstrong’s girlfriend that dumps him because he’s a loser now, and Landis can be played by a flaming bag of dog poop. Just have Judd Apatow produce and Adam Sandler can voice the bag of poop. It should make at least $100 million.