Jesse Owens biopic ‘Race’ adds Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons

Former “SNL” funnyman Jason Sudeikis will get serious alongside Oscar winner Jeremy Irons and rising star Stephan James (“Selma”) in the upcoming Jesse Owens biopic “Race.”

Focus Features has picked up the U.S. distribution rights to the drama centered on track and field legend Owens (James), who fought racism and discrimination on his way to winning four gold medals at the 1936 games in Nazi-era Berlin.

Sudeikis will star as Owens' determined coach, Larry Snyder, who trained various Olympic track stars to 14 world records and eight gold medals.

Irons will play Avery Brundage, the controversial head of the American Olympic committee who fought to keep the U.S. in the Berlin games despite calls for a boycott in the wake of Hitler's rise to power. Brundage faced controversy again as president of the International Olympic Committee during the 1972 Munich games in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed by terrorists.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins (“The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”), “Race” will start principal photography later this month in Montreal and will also shoot on location at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

“Race” was written by Anna Waterhouse (“On the Shoulders of Giants”) and Joe Shrapnel (“Frankie and Alice”).

“We are proud to be the U.S. distributor of the inspirational story of Jesse Owens – a sports hero who exemplified perseverance, courage and grace, and whose story will resonate with audiences of all generations,” Focus CEO Peter Schlessel said in a press release.

“I'm excited we've assembled such an impressive cast to tell this extraordinary story,” beamed Hopkins. “Stephen James is an amazing discovery, a rare star-in-the-making, who has the charisma and talent to embody the incredible spirit of Jesse Owens. We are also excited to have Jason Sudeikis, an actor of extraordinary talent, in his first big-screen dramatic role. Together they will recreate the chemistry and life-long friendship of Jesse Owens and his young, maverick coach Larry Snyder – who challenged not only the Olympic committee but the Nazis themselves. We're also lucky enough to have Jeremy Irons, playing the controversial head of the Olympic committee, Avery Brundage.”

“This was a story waiting to be made for nearly 80 years,” added Mister Smith Entertainment's David Garrett. “The production team have done an incredible job of bringing this all together and we are thrilled to be partnered with Focus as they have shown real passion and vision for the project.”

No release date has yet been set, but the drama is no doubt aiming to compete in next year's Oscar race, and will like be in theaters by the end of 2015.