EW has confirmed that producers Mike Tollin (Varsity Blues, Coach Carter) and Glenn Rigberg (Struck By Lightning) have obtained the rights to make a feature film biopic about Henry “Hank” Aaron, the baseball legend who broke Babe Ruth’s decades-long career home-run record on April 8, 1974. This project has instantly become one of the hottest sports movie projects in Hollywood.
Barry Levinson (The Natural) is attached to direct, working with screenwriter Adam Mazer, who wrote Levinson’s HBO biopic on Jack Kevorkian, You Don’t Know Jack, which Rigberg exec produced. Based on Howard Bryant’s book The Last Hero: The Life Story of Henry Aaron, the film will trace the two years from 1972 to 1974 during which Aaron chased, and bested, Babe Ruth’s record — an accomplishment that was met with both breathless media coverage as well as death threats.
Aaron, who has been reportedly reluctant in the past to agree to a film version of his life, will consult on the film. He first worked with Tollin on the latter’s Oscar-nominated 1995 feature documentary, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, and the two have remained friends since. Tollin sits on the board of the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, and tells EW he plans for proceeds from the film to be funneled back into the Foundation. “This [film] is something we’ve toyed with and talk about all the time,” Tollin says. “It’s challenging for Henry, because in some ways, it was the darkest time of his life, even though it was the most triumphant in professional terms. But as we talked about it, I think he grew more comfortable with our approach to it and having it shine a light on where America was in those times, and how far we’ve progressed — and maybe how far we still have to go.”
Casting will not begin in earnest until the script is completed. The hope is to go into production next year, and release in 2014, in time for both the 40th anniversary of Aaron’s record, and the man’s 80th birthday.
Variety first reported this story.