Eric Bana motorcycle

There was a time in the 2000s when Hollywood seemed hellbent on making Eric Bana the next big thing. But the Australian actor has shrugged off those expectations and settled into the next phase of his career, most recently playing the title character on the TV series Dirty John. Now he’s found his next project, and it’s one he’s obviously passionate about: he’ll write, co-direct, and star in a film based on Mike “The Bike” Hailwood, a British grand prix motorcycle racer who was once considered to be the best of all time.

Deadline says that Bana will co-direct the untitled film based on Hailwood’s life alongside Robert Connolly, whose credits include Underground: The Julian Assange Story, Paper Plane, and The Turning. Bana’s Pick Up Truck Pictures will produce with Connolly’s Arenamedia.

In the 1960s, Mike Hailwood was a legendary racer. He became the first man in the history of the Isle of Man TT competition to win three races in one week (he took home prizes in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc categories), and the first person to ever win four consecutive 500cc world championship titles. He won titles, set world speed records, and retired from racing bikes in 1967 and transitioned to racing cars, finishing third place at the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hour race just three years after the events depicted in Ford v Ferrari.

This film will reportedly follow Hailwood’s return to racing, when he tried to make a comeback in 1978 riding a Ducati. According to Deadline:

Hailwood revived his career by returning to a race that is considered the most dangerous motorsports event in the world, with 151 fatalities since its inception in 1907. The high-speed race is run on public roads on the British island. Hailwood, who once interrupted his own race to pull a burning competitor out of his blazing Formula One race car and save his life, would himself die tragically at age 40 along with his daughter after a truck crashed into their vehicle as they headed to a restaurant.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Eric Bana and Robert Connolly have taken Mike’s story to adapt into a feature film about his historic ‘comeback’ race win,” Hailwood’s widow Pauline Hailwood and their son David said in a statement. “We are delighted that Mike will be depicted by Eric Bana, an actor with an immense passion and knowledge of motorsports, Mike’s career, and a rider himself.”

Bana hasn’t written anything since the 1990s, when he was working as a writer/performer in sketch comedy. I had no idea this was a part of his career, but his surprisingly solid turn in Judd Apatow’s Funny People is now not quite as much of a surprise. He’s only directed one film before, but it’s somewhat relevant to this project: it was a 2009 documentary called Love the Beast about racing.

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