Growing up in the UK in the '80s and '90s, Channel 4 was an exciting new alternative to the staid safe havens of our other three terrestrial channels. Not only did it offer daring and sometimes controversial content that the BBC and ITV wouldn't touch, it also gave an exotic taster of global sport to our screens. We were introduced to the delights of Mongolian Yak Polo and Irish hurling on "Trans World Sport," while "Gazetta Football Italia" brought us a sexy European version of soccer after the success of the World Cup in 1990.
Then there was coverage of American Football. Channel 4 hooked many British viewers with the sport in the year it went live in 1982. From that moment, NFL grew in popularity as an alternative to our hooligan-blighted national game. By the time I first tuned in to see what all the fuss was about, they were done with explaining the rules. Baffled, I spent several evenings trying to figure out what was happening play-by-play, which seemed like an intriguing puzzle to solve without any help in those pre-internet days.
I became a casual enthusiast, with big stars like Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and William "The Refrigerator" Perry still plying their trade at the time. In the background was also the name John Madden; he had long since retired as a coach but, as a broadcaster, he was synonymous with the sport. He was also the figurehead of a new video game called "John Madden Football," which gave birth to the long-running and best-selling franchise.
I haven't seen an American Football game for many years now, but my nostalgia buds for that era started twitching with the announcement of a John Madden biopic. Here's what we know so far.
When Will The John Madden Biopic Be Released?
The John Madden biopic was announced not longer after it was revealed that the now-retired Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady will served as an executive producer on a limited series based on Madden's life story. Although it has the blessing of Madden's family, the limited series sounds like a more low-key affair, written by Alex Sohn ("Vegas") and directed by Gavin O'Connor ("Warrior"). Originally intended as a movie before the decision was made to expand it to a series, the creators will start casting as soon as the episodes are written. This means there's no indication yet who they might have lined up to play the big man.
Neither the limited series nor the Madden movie biopic have a scheduled release date right now, which raises the tantalizing prospect that we might get two competing Madden projects around the same time. Given that the legendary coach, commentator, and video game entrepreneur was such an outsized personality, that would mean a lot of Madden on our screens.
What Is The Plot Of The John Madden Biopic?
For many younger viewers, John Madden is probably best known for the immensely successful franchise from Electronic Arts which, at the time of Madden's death in 2021, had sold over 130 million copies. Before that, his history with American Football goes back to his playing days in the '50s, when his promising career was curtailed by injury. After moving into college coaching, he was hired to marshal the offensive line for the Oakland Raiders in 1967 and took over as head coach two years later. His success with the team culminated in their first Super Bowl victory in 1977. It was a glorious moment but the pressure took its toll on his health and he retired shortly afterwards before embarking on the next phase of his career.
Taking to the commentary booth brought his irrepressible personality into the homes of millions of U.S. viewers each week, and his most successful partnership behind the mic was with Pat Summerall, who played straight man to Madden's rambunctious style for over 20 years. With their effortless camaraderie, they became the voice of football for young and old. As renowned for his exuberant warmth and humor as much as his undoubted tactical insight, Madden won 16 Emmy Awards, commentated on over 500 NFL games, and eight Super Bowls.
Madden was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2006 and stepped back from the game three years later, wanting to spend more time with his family. He passed away in 2021 aged 85. When the news broke, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a heartfelt statement:
"Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. […] There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."
Who Is Directing The John Madden Biopic?
Deadline has reported that David O. Russell — the five-time Oscar-nominated writer/director of movies as diverse as "Silver Linings Playbook," "Three Kings," and "I Heart Huckabees" — is set to helm a John Madden biopic as a Prime Video Sports Original for Amazon and MGM. We would be remiss, however, to talk about any David O. Russell project without additionally bringing up the filmmaker's long history of workplace abuse, in addition to the allegations that he sexually assaulted his transgender niece.
Although the streaming platform has declined to comment at this stage, what we do know is that the project has been in the works for a while, based on a Black List screenplay from Cambron Clark, whose previous credits include co-writing "Dinosaurs of the Jurassic World." Russell was reportedly in the process of re-jigging the script when the recent writer's strike took place. Also throwing his weight behind the biopic is Steve Tisch, co-owner of the New York Giants, which indicates that the NFL community will get behind a high-profile film about one of the sport's most beloved figures.
Who Is Starring In The John Madden Biopic?
The big news about David O. Russell's upcoming John Madden biopic is that Will Ferrell is in talks to play one of football's biggest personalities. Instinctively, my reaction is that the pairing of Russell and Ferrell would make a good team. The director has become a serial Oscar nominee despite his offbeat sensibilities, with "American Hustle" receiving 10 Academy Award nods. He gets committed performances from his actors and has experience with biopics after "Joy," where Jennifer Lawrence played the inventor of a revolutionary mop. He also directed her to a Best Actress Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook." Given the almost universal love and respect that Madden has from sports fans, it is hard to imagine that it will be anything other than an affectionate look at his career.
As for Ferrell, the actor has starred in numerous sports-related movies already, from "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and "Semi-Pro" to "Blades of Glory." While he is primarily known for his comic performances, he has also proven his more dramatic chops with his sensitive turn in "Stranger Than Fiction," playing an uptight IRS drone who comes to realize he is a character in a novel.
How might Ferrell play John Madden? I can't help but think of the Christmas classic "Elf." Buddy, a human raised as one of Santa's elves, finds wonder in everything when he travels from the North Pole to New York. Madden took a similar joy in things when commentating; not only did he live and breathe football, he often turned his freewheeling observations to stuff happening outside the playing field, emphasizing his point with slapdash use of his famous Telestrator. If anyone can successfully capture his livewire joie de vivre, it might just be Will Ferrell.
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The post Everything We Know About David O. Russell's John Madden Biopic appeared first on /Film.