Robert De Niro has already won one Oscar playing legendary boxer Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull,” can he win another as the firey Green Bay Packers icon Vince Lombardi? Is a casting coup for fledgling ESPN Films, De Niro has agreed to play the championship football coach in the new motion picture “Lombardi.”
Based on the book “Instant Replay” written by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap, the film will center on the formative years Lombardi took the Packers from worst team in the NFL to five-time league champions. Eric Roth, who collaborated with De Niro on “The Good Shepherd” but is best known for his screenplay for “Forest Gump,” is adapting. De Niro will also co-produce along with his longtime partner Jane Rosenthal and the NFL through hi Tribeca Productions company. No director has committed to the project at this time.
In a statement, Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival along with De Niro, said, “We’ve had an extraordinary relationship with ESPN for five years through the Tribeca Film Festival, and now we’re able to extend that association into production.”
The NFL is also very pleased about having the two-time Oscar winner on board. The league’s Charles Coplin used a number of sports analogies noting, “There are few actors who could accurately portray the fire, passion and grit of Lombardi and we’re thrilled to have Robert De Niro on our team. With the addition of De Niro, Eric and Tribeca Productions, we have a deep bench to produce a film worthy of the legendary coach and American icon.”
Production appears as though it won’t occur until sometime in 2011. ESPN and the NFL would like the film to release the weekend between the AFC and NFC Championships and Super Bowl 2012. That would be a tenative release date of Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. It is unclear which studio would distribute the picture, but one would have to assume ESPN parent company Walt Disney Studios would be in the mix.