James Franco is in talks to direct a movie about ESPN. Back in 1979, the world of sports media was forever changed when Entertainment and Sports Programming Network launched their first show: SportsCenter. The network quickly grew to become the power house in sports TV and has remained that way to this day. ESPN has expanded to include several different programs and feature hundreds of personalities. The network is now part of Disney's collection of assets thanks to the Mouse House's acquisition of ABC.
Despite the prominence ESPN has had in sports culture for nearly 40 years, the story behind the network has never taken the spotlight. That is, until 2011 when the book Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN launched and shared some insight into its inner workings. If everything progresses smoothly, a feature film adaptation will be next.
Collider reports James Franco is now in talks to direct a movie about ESPN based on the aforementioned book. The project hails from Focus Features and is now being rewritten by Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher C. Rogers. He'll adapt the book written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, which focuses on Bill Rasmussen, the founder of ESPN.
Rasmussen's story is the typical success story, where he had to go to sometimes crazy lengths to make this dream a reality. In this specific example, Bill and his son, Scott, had to max out credit cards just to get enough financing to secure the satellites they'd need to become the first 24 hour sports network. They found space in Bristol, Connecticut (where ESPN's headquarters remain). Getty Oil would then buy 85% of the company from Bill in 1979. Within a year of launching SportsCenter, ESPN secured the TV rights to opening round games of March Madness and then started televising the NFL Draft.
How much of ESPN's story will be told will depend on the script and vision that Franco specifically has. He's fresh off his award-worthy directorial effort on The Disaster Artist, which focused on the making of The Room instead of Tommy Wiseau's entire life. He and Rogers could take the same approach with the story by focusing the early years of ESPN and their first several achievements. It could be a Wolf of Wall Street-type rise to power story, but hopefully Franco brings some fun to it as he did with The Disaster Artist.
While the main characters will be Bill and Scott Rasmussen, other central figures will be Getty Oil executive Stu Evey, NBC Sports president Chet Simmons, RCA salesman Al Parinello, Anheuser-Busch exec Claude Bishop, and early VP of production Scotty Connal. If the movie dives deep into the on screen personalities as well, a young Dick Vitale, Greg Gumbel, Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Mel Kiper Jr., and more could all make appearances. Franco was able to fill The Disaster Artist with an A-list cast, and there's the potential for him to do the same with this project, if he closes the deal to direct.