This seems to be a fairly common thing in Olympics movies. I mean, just in the handful I've seen there's been a whole lot of death, and Unbroken (which comes out on Christmas!) sure isn't going to be any happier. It was this revelation that made sense of why I'm so into Miracle -- not only does it involve absolutely zero deaths or torture, it's a movie that's well-done and almost entirely factual. Obviously Hollywood took a few liberties, but you can watch Miracle and get a pretty solid idea of how things actually happened. This, too, is surprisingly rare. Cool Runnings? Sorry, guys. It's based on a true story but needs to be taken with a huuuuge grain of salt.
Basically, I'm just not thrilled with my selection of Olympics movies. I mean, is it so much to ask to watch a movie that's both accurate and not depressing? Apparently it is. But if you throw a rock at the Olympics, you'll hit a story that's worth making a movie about. It's literally a goldmine of movie material. Here are some Olympics movies that Hollywood definitely needs to start developing ASAP!
1. Dan Jansen. How this guy's story wasn't immortalized on the silver screen within days of the Lillehammer 1994 Games coming to an end, I will never understand. In 1988 he was the favorite for two speed skating gold medals. But on the day of his first race, his sister died of leukemia, and he fell in both of his races. He came back for the 1992 Olympics and again finished out of the medals, but in his final race at the 1994 Olympics, he was finally able to win the gold medal that had eluded him for so long. But not only that... he took his victory lap holding his baby daughter that he'd named after his sister. I mean, come on! You don't even need to take any creative license with that! It's a story that involves heartbreak and success AND wraps itself up in a neat little bow! Do you want to start writing the screenplay, or should I?
2. The Dream Team. While I'm a total sucker for an underdog story, I still think the greatest team of all time could easily be turned into a great movie. There was plenty of interesting stuff going on in that team dynamic, and a movie could easily become more of a character study than anything else! I mean, Patrick Ewing (from Jamaica) and Larry Bird (a white guy from a teeny town in Indiana) became best friends. Magic Johnson was battling HIV and trying to maintain alpha male status over Michael Jordan, who wasn't taking too kindly to that. And then there was Charles Barkley, who's enough of a character to carry an entire movie by himself. Now, tell me you wouldn't watch that!
3. The Magnificent Seven. Again, who in Hollywood is sleeping on this one? That first "team that overcame the odds and beat the Russians" movie did pretty well, right? Well, this has all the same elements (right down to the slightly crazy coach!), but this one would involve girls in star-spangled leotards and the self-sacrificing heroics of Kerri Strug. But there was drama even before the Olympics, as Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu were both injured during Olympic trials but were named to the team anyway. So many storylines! So much potential!
4. Apolo Ohno. I might be biased, since Apolo is my dude, but I would love to see a movie about his life. He was a really rebellious kid from a single-parent household that essentially ran away from home to avoid going to train seriously. And he then went on to become the most decorated American winter Olympian in history. Again, there's not really much creative license that has to be taken there. It's one of those underdog stories that people tend to salivate over.
5. Jesse Owens. Um, hello? He's THE American Olympic hero. Look up any list of the greatest American Olympic moments, and 90% of the time, the Miracle on Ice will be #2 and Jesse Owens will be #1. He was the black man that beat all of Hitler's Aryans in Germany. Pretty self explanatory. But as if we need another reason, he also happened to befriend one of his blonde German competitors, Luz Long, who offered Owens in-competition advice and then finished second to him. So not only was Jesse Owens beating the Germans, he was making friends with them. Talk about giving Hitler the finger!
6. Dick Fosbury. I absolutely adore Dick Fosbury, and his story is probably one of the most unique and compelling I've ever come across. He was a high jumper that literally revolutionized the technique used in his sport... simply because he couldn't do it the accepted way. Like, he was a very bad high jumper, so he said "screw it, I'll get over that bar however I can." So the Fosbury Flop was born, and he broke all sorts of records and won an Olympic gold medal. And nowadays, every single high jumper uses the Fosbury Flop technique. AMAZING.
Hollywood, take note: a movie doesn't have to be fabricated or depressing to be awesome. But until you start realizing that, I'll just watch Miracle another million or so times. (And, uh, I should probably get around to Chariots of Fire!)