BEVERLY HILLS, California — Sheryl Crow might be finished with Lance Armstrong, but Hollywood, it seems, is just getting started.
Superproducer and occasional director Frank Marshall is solidifying plans to bring the story of the seven-time Tour de France champion to the silver screen, and the big surprise is that the biopic has already started shooting.
“I was there, and we shot on the last day of his seventh win last summer in Paris,” the 59-year-old Marshall, who produced the “Back to the Future” and “Bourne” movies and directed “Alive” and the upcoming “Eight Below,” revealed over the weekend. “We had six cameras going; it was incredibly exciting.”
The film will be Marshall’s next directorial effort, and he intends to utilize the real-life footage for a “What’s Love Got to Do with It”-inspired finish that will fade out on Matt Damon’s portrayal of Armstrong’s early days and then fade in on the real deal. “You’ve got it,” he said of the comparison to the 1993 Tina Turner biopic. “We’re going to have the real Lance in the end titles, in his last race.”
Damon expressed his excitement over the role last year, saying, “Everybody knows about him winning and winning and winning these Tour de Frances, which is incredible to have done what he’s done, but the story of what he really went through, the in-depth story, I just thought was kind of amazing.”
Adapted from the best-selling Armstrong autobiography “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life,” the film’s script is currently receiving a final polish before it crosses the finish line. According to Marshall, he is meeting regularly with Armstrong and Damon to plot out their collaboration.
“I talk to Lance all the time,” Marshall grinned, adding that the cycling legend will serve as an advisor on the set. “He’s a participant; he wants to be a part of it, and I certainly want to have him there.”
Addressing the biographer-subject friendship, Marshall then cautioned: “But I told him, I’m not making a puff piece.”
Those who’ve followed Armstrong’s often-controversial career might expect the film, then, to address the nagging steroid allegations levied by his detractors, but the producer/director insisted that the film won’t go anywhere near the topic. “No, I don’t think that’s part of that early [story],” he said. “The first book, ’It’s Not About the Bike,’ goes up to the first Tour win. There’s none of that in there; I’m not going to deal with that. I don’t believe any of that, anyway.”
Following the course of his snowbound flicks “Alive” and “Below” and the jungle-set “Congo,” Marshall intends to use a similar great-wide-open aesthetic to bring a new look to the bicycling-drama genre. “I just love that story; it’s another really inspiring story,” he said. “I love him, and I think he’s the greatest athlete of our time. I just would love to tell that story. It’s exciting, it’s an adventure, and I like these outdoor kind of challenges of how to tell that story in a different way. It’s what appealed to me.”
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