Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by Germain Lussier
Most geeks know the number 42 as Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And if that’s the case, Jackie Robinson is the Ultimate Question. Robinson was the first African American Major League Baseball player and is the only player to have his number, 42, universally retired throughout Major League Baseball (at least it will be when Mariano Rivera stops saving games for the Yankees) as well as his own day celebrated throughout the sport. He is one of the most important sports figures in history and his struggle and triumph is ripe for dramatization.
Legendary Pictures, hot off another rousing financial success with The Hangover Part II, has announced that they’re working with the family of the sports and civil rights icon on an official biopic based on Robinson’s life that will be written and directed by Brian Helgeland. And while we’ve previously reported that Helgeland would be making a Robinson film with Robert Redford, this seems to be a different take.
Helgeland is best known for his Oscar-winning screenplay for LA Confidential, but also directed A Knight’s Tale and Payback.
The news was broken by The Wrap and expanded on by Deadline. From a behind the scenes standpoint, the big news is that Dick Cook, former chairman of Disney who has been out of movies for a while, will executive produce, as he’s on the board of Legendary and a huge baseball fan.
Robinson broke the baseball color barrier on April 15, 1947 and played just under a decade before retiring in 1956. He won the Rookie of the Year award, the National League MVP, a World Series championship and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 before passing away in 1972.
Here’s what Legendary chairman Thomas Tull said about the film:
We are deeply honored and grateful to be able to bring the Jackie Robinson story to audiences around the world. The legacy he left on history, society and the sport of baseball is one that will never be forgotten, and we are pleased to tell this amazing story of a true American hero.
Robinson’s incredible story of strength and perseverance was brought to the big screen once before while he was still in the league in 1950’s The Jackie Robinson Story with Robinson playing himself. Numerous unofficial TV movies have been made and Spike Lee and Robert Redford have both tried to make films in the past but, obviously, never got off the ground.
Legendary and Helgeland originally were rumored to be part of the Redford project, which would have centered on Robinson’s Dodgers manager, Branch Rickey, who brought Robinson into the league. This new take, however, seems to be more Jackie centric and is presumably sans-Redford.
A true icon of American history, both sports and beyond, Robinson’s story will make an incredible movie but Helgeland, better known as a screenwriter, has a lot to live up to.