clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Jesse Owens biopic 'Race' out in April 2016

Film chronicles famous American track and field star's gold medal-winning performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

Wikipedia

"Race," a biographical film detailing American track and field star Jesse Owens's life, will hit theaters on April 8, 2016.

According to Deadline, Veteran actor William Hurt joined the production as Jeremiah Mahoney, then-president of the Amateur Athletic Union. The cast includes Jeremy IronsJason SudeikisCarice van Houten and Stephan James as Owens. Stephen Hopkins directs from a script written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse.

James came on in late May to replace John Boyega, who left the project to run around the set of "Star Wars: Episode VII" with J.J Abrams and company.

The film follows Owens from Alabama to Germany as he overcomes adversity stateside and abroad, winning four gold medals in the process.

Owens attended the Ohio State University, where he was known as the "Buckeye Bullet" for his numerous NCAA title wins. In 1935, he achieved fame by setting three world records and attempting a fourth within a single hour at the Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Mich.

These achievements propelled Owens into the Summer Olympics, which almost didn't happen per Hitler's influence. Nazi party propaganda lauded Aryan superiority and ridiculed the athletic capabilities of African and other minorities. He countered by winning gold in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 4x100-meter relay and long jump events.

It's famously believed that Hitler "snubbed" Owens when he shook the hands of German medalists at one of the first awards ceremonies, but skipped those that followed. Many have since argued against this historical interpretation, as Hitler left the games to attend to pressing governmental matters. Owens, himself a rising national symbol of American diversity, told the Pittsburgh Press:

"Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It happened he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters. But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticize the 'man of the hour' in another country."

Whatever the case may be, audiences won't know how "Race" will handle this and other aspects of Owens's life until the film's release in 2016. Hopefully director Hopkins and his collaborators will avoid the pitfalls of other notable running films, as decried by Runner's World.

When Owens died in 1980 at the age of 66, the New York Times described him as "perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history." To this day, that sentiment remains unchanged.