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John Boyega Exits Jesse Owens Biopic For 'Star Wars' - Who Should Replace Him In The Part?

by Tambay A. Obenson
May 8, 2014 11:59 AM
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When it was first announced that he had been cast to play the part, I thought it was an unexpected, and interesting choice; I couldn't immediately picture him in the role.

He's now no longer attached to star, because of his new commitment to Star Wars: Episode VII, which he was very recently cast in. Clearly he and his agent/manager felt that a tent-pole Hollywood movie franchise was a better career move than a *smaller* biopic on one of the greatest athletes of our time.

I certainly can't argue with that decision.

But, in short, his Star Wars casting presented a scheduling conflict, and a choice had to be made. It happens often.

John Boyega will no longer play Jesse Owens in the biopic titled Race, from Forecast Pictures and ID+.

It's not the Jesse Owens biopic that Anthony Mackie has long been trying to make (he's called it his dream project, although there hasn't been any movement on it in ages, meaning it might be dead); nor is it the Antoine Fuqua/Disney Jesse Owens project, based on ESPN anchor Jeremy Schaap's book, Triumph - making it the 3rd Jesse Owens project in development.

Which will make it to the finish line first?

Race will be directed by Stephen Hopkins (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers), from a script penned by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel.

The project will...

... focus on how Owens, the son of an Alabama sharecropper, shattered Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by winning a record four gold medals in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the long jump and the 400-meter relay. Owens’ victories are considered among the greatest atlhetic feats of all time.

Focus Features is in negotiations for US distribution rights to the film.

Shooting was set to begin on the German-Canadian co-production this month in Berlin and Montreal, with a spring 2015 release planned. It's not yet known whether those plans are still in effect, given the casting change. And no word on what actors are now being considered for the part.

Who would you cast instead? 

I'd go with an "unknown" as I typically do when it comes to biopics. Less baggage.

It's a project that has the backing of the Jesse Owens Foundation, and the Jesse Owens Trust, so it shouldn't face the same kind of hurdles that other recent biopics have had to wrestle.

Meanwhile, up next for Boyega (Star Wars aside) is his starring role in Malik Vitthal’s drama Imperial Dreams, which made its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

By the way, Laurens Grant's acclaimed 2011 Jesse Owens documentary, co-produced by Stanley Nelson -  the team behind the Emmy-Award-winning documentary Freedom Riders - is available on home video.

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  • Muse | May 14, 2014 8:48 PMReply

    Star Wars was a smart move. Most people who recognize Boyega know him from the British sci-fi cult classic Attack the Block, and he's currently in the critically acclaimed film Half of a Yellow Sun. Star Wars is definitely an upward move, while another boring, dry biopic would have been a lateral or even downward move. I think the life stories of folks like Jesse Owens and Nina Simone are best told through documentaries rather than biopics.

  • JMac | May 8, 2014 9:10 PMReply

    I can only see Anthony Mackie as Jesse Owens. I hope his project comes to fruition.

  • Blackman | May 8, 2014 6:08 PMReply

    This is why foreigners should never play African Americans. They are too unenlightened as to Black causes. Good luck with that Star Wars thingy. We will see how bright his star shines. Especially in a crowded world of fake actors. People who are willing to sell their soul for a role.

  • REAL BLACK MAN | May 9, 2014 6:01 AM

    What an ignorant comment. As an actor you mix it up! There are NO rules! This is art! Nothing stops him from playing iconic black roles in the future. Taking a role over another is part of the business of acting! There are scheduling conflicts ALL THE TIME. Save your racial revolutionary mindset for politics! I for one would love to see a black man in Star Wars! And to say foreigners are unenlightened. ???? You obviously know nothing about foreign black history and their struggles. Once again you feel the spot of an ignorant African American with no sense of how the entertainment industry works. It's very hard not to shine bright in Star Wars especially when you are the lead. X

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