by Adam Best, Arrowhead Addict
I'm not gonna lie -- I'm amped about the upcoming Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious. For those of you who are not up on the lingo, biopic is a biography picture or film. And, yes, a Biggie film is definitely getting made. In fact, Fox Searchlight is casting potential Big Poppas right now, further proving the belief that you can always find somebody to play anybody.
That being said, there are plenty of potentially classic sports biopics that haven't been made yet. Just like they are finding a Biggie, they can find any athlete or sports celebrity. Hell, Hollywood forged The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air into a pretty damn good Muhammad Ali not too long ago.
Some of these selections might surprise you, but many of my favorite biopics (American Splendor, Owning Mahowny, Raging Bull, etc...) don't revolve around either the biggest of names or the most successful of people. Even Rocky was inspired by Chuck Wepner, who, at best, was a relative unknown. Still, there are a few superstars in the mix to keep all you mainstream cats satisfied.
Here are my pitches for some potentially classic sports biopics that need to get greenlit:
Being Drew Rosenhaus - If Jerry Maguire was one end of the spectrum -- a candy-coated, picture-perfect version of a sports agent's world -- this film would be the exact opposite -- Bob Sugar: Confessions of a Heartless Bastard. You'd have the sports world's most notorious agent ever representing equally notorious clients. Maybe Notorious L.I.E. would be a better name than Being Drew Rosenhaus? Also, this would only work with an "R" rating, likely one that the filmmakers fought long and hard to get. No punches could be pulled whatsoever, or we'd have Cameron Crowe's morally conflicted puss of a sports agent running around screaming "show me the money" again. A Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer version simply wouldn't work. There are also plenty of actors who are just around the perfect age to play him throughout the years -- Aaron Eckhart, Christian Bale, Joaquin Phoenix, Sam Rockwell, etc.
Bo Knows - Quite frankly, with all apologies to Air Jordan, Bo Jackson was the most enigmatic athlete of his era. I even think Bo was more popular than Mike (like Biggie said, "pick one") for a minute. Those "Bo Knows" Nike commercials didn't even seem like hyperbole to me -- it really seemed like Bo could do anything. Even "Tecmo Bo" didn't seem like much of a farce. That was back in the day, though, and now we know that Bo never had the chance to really show us what he knew. Like Len Bias before him, the career of one of the greatest athletes ever ended way too soon. The big difference, however, is that Bo's career ended due to no fault of his own. That would allow the audience to sympathize with Bo in a way they won't be able to with Bias as the protagonist. The story ends well, too, as Bo has accomplished quite a bit away from both the diamond and gridiron since his retirement.
Kings of New York - You ever see that 90's movie King of New York, where Christopher Walken and Laurence Fishburne play two psychotic cokeheads who run around the Big Apple causing mayhem? Well, this wouldn't be too much different, except instead of two of the city's biggest druglords, it would be two of the city's best baseball players -- former Mets' Rookie of the Year winners Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. This saga would also be kind of like Hoop Dreams, as it paralleled two of both New York and an era's most gifted baseball players as they threw away their respective careers.
Gooden -- a strikeout king of a pitcher who finished with an overall record of 194-112 -- won half of his games prior to age 25. Even though he had some great moments with both the Mets and Yankees, his career was ultimately a major disappointment. He had the talent to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but that never materialized because of rampant alcohol and cocaine addictions. In 2006, Doc chose going back to prison over lengthy probation after being arrested because he thought that was the only thing that would clean him up. He was released seven months later, and has since avoided trouble... for now.
Strawberry -- an outfielder who had the chops to easily be one of the greatest ever -- might have been even more of a mess than Doc. He's had three wives and at least one illegitimate child. He's been in and out of drug treatment centers, halfway houses and jail. He's been on and off both house arrest and probation. He even had colon cancer and had to go through chemotherapy. Ultimately, his substance addictions were the demons that ruined his baseball career, but they haven't quite ruined his life. He met his third wife a year ago, is currently clean and his son was drafted this year and is pursuing an NBA career.
Mr. Pacer - Reggie. Nope, not Mr. October. Mr. Last Minute -- Reggie Miller. Listen to this plot... the kid who overcame both leg deformities and growing up in the shadow of two siblings -- a pro baseball player and the greatest women's basketball player ever -- to enjoy a Hall of Fame basketball career. If his last-minute heroics aren't enough drama, then still you have his house getting burned down and the Malice at the Palice. Besides, just look at this supporting cast of characters: Charles Barkley, Cheryl Miller, Dan Patrick, David Stern, Dennis Rodman, Jermaine O'Neal, John Starks, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Larry Brown, Marv Alberts, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Phil Jackson, Ron Artest, Shaquille O'Neal, Spike Lee, Stephen Jackson, and last, but not least, his biggest antagonist -- Knicks fans. It might be kind of hard to find someone to play Rik Smits' goofy ass, but that's about the only potential snag. There's even a great ending. Reggie ends his 18-year career as a Pacer without a championship, yet receives an unheard of on-court standing ovation from the entire roster of his team's fiercest rival as he walks away from the game.
A Tale of Two Ohios - Earlier this decade, both the Ohio and national sports scenes had two princes -- hoops prodigy LeBron James and football manchild Maurice Clarett. Both started out on top, but their lives and careers have gone in diametrically different directions since.
Clarett became the man when he led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a National Championship as a frosh. After a scandal at OSU, an unsuccessful early-draft status appeal, getting cut by the Denver Broncos and getting arrested several times (for some crazy sh**, man), he never played another game. Clarett is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence, but is eligible for parole at the half-way mark. The most messed up thing about all of this was how misguided Clarett was. He should have never sat out an entire year of football. He should have never signed that stupid incentive-laden contract that left him broke, instead of banking over $400,000 of guaranteed money when he was already $1 million in debt. You can blame a lot of that on his attorney/manager David Kenner, a pimp of a lawyer who used to rep Death Row Records. At this point, Clarett will be lucky just to get out and stay out of prison, then enjoy a normal life.
While one prince fell from grace on his way to the throne, the other hasn't even stumbled. At all. Not even one half trip or slip. We all know the King James' version; He's a rich, famous, popular and successful mesgastar hoopster. Essentially, he's the 2K M.J.
Tragically, things currently couldn't be much different for these two. On the other hand, since they started at the same place around the same time, where they've ended up is what makes this story so compelling. I also have the feeling that this is a story that's only just begun.
Tommy Done?- Tommy "The Duke" Morrison went from being the next Rocky, to rocky road. The former "Great White Hope" even starred in Rocky V. The guy was on top of the world. He banged Jenny McCarthy. He was John Wayne's grand nephew. He beat Carl "The Truth" Williams, George Foreman, Razor Rudock and Riddick Bowe. He was the heavyweight champion of the world. He was hotter than Hansel. Then he got knocked out by some nobody named Michael Bent in his first title defense, and lost his highly anticipated bout with Lennox Lewis. The Lewis match would be his last fight for some time, as not long after |(1996) he tested HIV positive. Earlier this year, however, Morrison tested HIV negative and returned to the ring. He won his first match-up against some jobber, but the bigger story is the controversy swirling around his HIV test. Apparently, there are some who contend that Morrison indeed still is and always was HIV positive, and that he and a promoter rigged a fake blood test so The Duke could fight. This story is far from over, but when it is it will probably have enough plot twists and turns to be the next great boxing movie.
I'm sure one of these weeks I'll do a round two, but for now let's hear some of your pitches.
by Adam Best, Arrowhead Addict