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John Boyega Will Be Replaced By Stephan James In Jesse Owens Biopic

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 28, 2014 at 6:09PM

John Boyega Will Be Replaced By Stephan James In Jesse Owens Biopic
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Stephan James

When it was first announced that he had been cast to play the part, I thought it was an unexpected, and interesting choice; I just 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 eventually cast in, after much speculation. 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+

He will be replaced by Stephan James according to TheWrap.

The up-and-comer is a Canadian film and television actor, whose past notable roles include Julian Williams in Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Everton St. Clair in Sudz Sutherland's feature film Home Again for which he received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 1st Canadian Screen Awards.

His future looks quite bright, with roles in upcoming film and TV projects like Ava DuVernay's Selma, and Clement Virgo's The Book of Negroes.

Starring as Jesse Owens should only further raise his industry profile, leading to even more work.

I should note that this is 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 was previously in negotiations for US distribution rights to the film.

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.

Shooting was set to begin on the German-Canadian co-production this month in Berlin and Montreal, with a spring 2015 release planned. 

No other casting news has been announced yet..

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.

This article is related to: Stephan James, John Boyega


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