Jackie Robinson is such an important figure in history -- not just baseball and not just for America -- that he certainly deserves the new biopic about him, 42. He has already been the subject of a movie before, however (albeit one released in the middle of his career). And many other athletes, including Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Seabiscuit, have had at least two features about them as well. Now that the Robinson story has finally made it back to the big screen, the next great sports drama following the life of a ball player or boxer or racehorse or whatever should be spotlight someone totally new.
There are tons and tons of athletic heroes that could make a decent movie, and more than a few who are long overdue. As far as timely figures go, Lance Armstrong is a good choice, and actually there are competing films in the making. Mark McGwire is another who comes to mind. Yet these are disgraced heavies in their respective sports due to their use of performance-enhancement drugs. There's definitely room for a biopic focused on steroid use, but not a lot (also the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster is already a phenomenal film on the topic). We're living in cynical times right now, but that's all the more reason we should probably get more positive movies on true heroes -- like 42.
Speaking of docs, maybe we can look to some of the great nonfiction sports films made in recent years, particularly as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series. Maybe a remake of Run Ricky Run about Ricky Williams, or the racing biopic Tim Richmond: To The Limit? As long as I'm thinking about athletes with AIDS, could we eventually see a movie about Magic Johnson or Arthur Ashe? The latter has had a biopic in development in the past, but it's been more than five years since we heard about that one. Tragic stories often make for popular biopics. Others who died too young include wrestler Owen Hart, baseballer Roberto Clemente and so many more. Anyone who has died, even long after retiring, due to brain trauma would also fit with a current hot topic in sports.
The main thing is that while a lot of athletes are more than deserving of having their life story told on the big screen, proper subjects are those that have a certain angle to the plot, whether it involves civil rights or the concussion issue or some other significant theme, whether it's as timeless as racism or currently relevant as farming kids for the MLB out of the Dominican Republic. Also, more biopics involving sports we don't always see, so more wrestlers and hockey players over baseball players -- although Hollywood is probably always concerned with what they can sell globally, and baseball is marketable to many places outside the U.S.
Which athletes are most overdue for a biopic?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
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