Arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Pelé (born Edison Arantes do Nascimento) will be the subject of a scripted feature film which will see the involvement of Brian Grazer and his Imagine Entertainment.
Jeff and Michael Zimbalist penned the screenplay, and will direct the film as well. The brothers Zimbalist last helmed the acclaimed documentary The Two Escobars for ESPN Films in 2010.
According to Imagine Entertainment, the plan is to produce "more of a coming-of-age story that will trace Pele's childhood until he won his first World Cup in Sweden at the age of 17."
Announced this afternoon, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta, Colm Meaney and Seu Jorge have all signed on to star in Pelé (as the film will be called), with the legend played by two new faces in Leonardo Lima Carvalho as Pelé at age 10 years old, and Kevin de Paula, who'll play Pelé from ages 13 to 17, when he won his first World Cup, in 1958.
D'Onofrio will play the Brazilian team's coach, Vicente Feola (when they won the 1958 World Cup), while Boneta will play Jose, Pelés main competition, who also gave him the nickname "Pelé" when they were both kids. Seu Jorge will play Pelé's father, Dondinho. And Meaney will be the British coach of the Swedish nation team that lost to Brazil in the 1958 World Cup final - George Raynor.
Rounding out the cast are several Brazilian actors in Marianna Nunes, Milton Goncales, Rafael Henrique, Marcus Vinicius, Julio Levy, Thelmo Fernandes, Felipe Simas, and Charles Myara.
Principal photography is underway in Brazil, with the goal being to release the film prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Seine Pictures will produce along with Grazer.
Let me just say that I'm glad to see that Brazilian actors are actually playing, not only Pelé, but seem to be heavily involved in the project. They could've cast a celebrity like, you know, Justin Beiber in "black face" to play Pelé, as ridiculous as that might sound.
This is Hollywood we're talking about after all.
I couldn't immediately find pictures of either of the two young actors cast to play Pelé, but I'm sure some will turn up sooner than later.
By the way, this is actually the second Pelé project in development (that we know of). Last November, it was announced that the legendary New York soccer team, the New York Cosmos, most famous for being the team that “brought Pelé to America,” will be the subject of a feature film in development, with Caroline Rowland, director of the official London 2012 Olympics film First, helming. Pelé was picked up by the team during the 1975 season, in a deal that was seen as a major coup for the ball club, acquiring a player whose worldwide popularity was compared to that of the Pope's.
While we wait for either film to become a reality, here's a 2010 short, directed by Luciano Moura and Nando Olival, and executive produced by Fernando Meirelles (director of City Of God, The Constant Gardener), which presents a fictionalized account of a then 69-year-old Pelé, returning to play for the Brazil national team, against the country's long-time rivals, Argentina, as Pelé, who finished his career playing for the New York Cosmos in the now-defunct North American Soccer League, in the late 1970s, gets his opportunity to score his final career goal as a Brazilian team player.