John Boyega, best known for 2011’s Attack the Block, will portray Jesse Owens in Race, a biopic of the famous African-American Olympic athlete. According to Variety, Stephen Hopkins will direct the screenplay from Anna Waterhouse and Joe Sharpnel. Shooting will begin in May for a planned release in spring 2015. Some scenes will be done on location at the Berlin Stadium, the site of the track and field events where Owens competed.
Jesse Owens (1913-1980) famously competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Adolf Hitler had hoped to use the games to demonstrate the so-called supremacy of his master race over Africans and other non-whites. Owens’ rebuttal came in the form of four gold medals for the 100 M, 200 M, 4×100 M relay, and the long jump, the most successful performance by a single athlete at the Berlin Games.
This project is separate from another Jesse Owens biopic planned by Disney based on a book by ESPN host Jeremy Schaap with Antoine Fuqua attached to direct. Variety broke that news as well but did not mention a timetable for release or who would star as Owens. Race has the backing of the Jesse Owens Foundation so, if we may speculate, it seems more likely that it will include more of his life story while the Disney film may put a greater emphasis on the 1936 Olympics. The title Race seems rather obviously a double entendre for both the events Owens competed in as well as the racial tensions he faced at home. This could present a rare occasion to see two films about the same man in close succession, and it will be interesting to compare their perspectives.