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Shane Meadows Planning Biopic Of Cyclist Tom Simpson

by Oliver Lyttelton
May 24, 2011 1:48 AM
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It feels like a long time since we had a major film from Shane Meadows. It's not that the director hasn't been busy, it's just that his work's either been somewhat slight -- the lovely, but lightweight "Somers Town," and the low-fi mockumentary "Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee" -- or on television, like last year's four-part "This Is England '86." That series, which picked up a BAFTA for actress Vicky McClure on Sunday, has a follow-up currently in production, "This Is England '88," but it also looks like Meadows is finally making a return to some bigger-scale cinematic work.

Jason Solomons of The Observer reports in a brief aside that Meadows is currently planning a biopic of legendary British cyclist Tom Simpson. Simpson mostly grew up in Meadows' beloved Nottingham, the son of coal miners, who gained an interest in cycling as a teenager in the 1950s. By the end of the decade, he'd impressed enough people to become a professional, going on to place highly, and being the first Brit to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France (which signifies the rider in first place), and the first to win the world road racing championship, in 1965.

The later stages of his career, while successful, were marred by hints of drug taking, and Simpson collapsed and died during the 1967 Tour de France, thanks to what was later found to be the combination of amphetamines and alcohol, aggravated by scorchingly hot weather. He's become something of a legend in the sport ever since, with Cycling Magazine calling him the No. 2 British rider of the 20th century.

It certainly seems to be something of a step outside the director's comfort zone, but we're sure that his usual down-to-earth approach, combined with the story's tragic conclusion, will make it appealing cinematic fare for the helmer. Meadows told the Telegraph earlier in the year that, "He was very open about taking amphetamines and it was very different then. I just think it is a great story." Considering the ongoing controversy around Lance Armstrong, it couldn't be more timely, and, although it's early stages, it's certainly one to look forward to, assuming Meadows can get the funding: something of an ongoing problem for the helmer, and one of the reasons for his move to TV. Presumably, it means that other projects, horror flick "Beware the Devil" and boxing biopic "King of the Gypsies," with Paddy Considine, are dormant for the moment.

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