The Program (2015) is an upcoming film which proposes to tell the “real” story behind cancer survivor and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong’s rise to glory and fall from grace. It was ruled in 2012 that Armstrong was not only guilty of using performance enhancing drugs during his athletic career, but of leading one of the most organized and secretive doping rings in sports, calling into question the entire well-documented story of his life, in and out of the public eye.
With Lone Survivor star Ben Foster playing Armstrong, The Program attempts to show us what Armstrong’s career actually looked like, with all the dirty deeds and secrets laid bare. And as you can see in the trailer above, the film will pretty much perform according to reporter David Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins, which helped expose the full scope of Armstrong’s cheating.
Directed by High Fidelity and Philomena director Stephen Frears, The Program also features Bridesmaids star Chris O’Dowd as David Walsh, The UK reporter whose continuous investigative effort was key in exposing Armstrong and the doping rings within pro cycling; Guillaume Canet as infamous doping doctor Michele Ferrari; Lee Pace as Bill Stapleton, the former GM of the US Pro Cycling Team; and Dustin Hoffman in an unnamed role (which, from the trailer, looks like a major sponsor of the Cycling team?).
The Program seems to have all the hallmarks of Frears’ other big biopic film, The Queen, which is to say it looks like awards season drama, through and through. The Queen did a good job of keeping focus on thematic and character arcs while juggling multiple characters, points of view, historical fact and dramatic exaggeration. In the end, it was enough for the film to net one Oscar (for Helen Mirren) and a slew of other awards/nominations. With Oscar-nominated writer John Hodge (Trainspotting) handling the script, there’s no reason to believe that we won’t get a good, dynamic character story out of this.
From what is seen in the trailer, Frears is definitely going with a more stylized approach than what we saw in The Queen – a seeming balance between the director’s slower lingering character insight, and Hodges’ more dynamic and frenetic storytelling, seen in films like Trainspotting and Trance. It’ll be curious to see how the two styles ultimately blend; if that blend lends value to the themes of the story; and of course, whether or not Foster can pull off the performance as Armstrong, who remains one of the most well-known athletes of the 21st century.
The Program does not yet have an official US release date.