ESPN and New Line Team Up to Release Inspirational Sports Biopic MULKEY

     January 14, 2010

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Recently, ESPN has been getting into bed with some pretty talented filmmakers.  Spike Lee, Peter Berg, and Barry Levinson have all directed documentaries that aired on the channel over the last year.  Now, Variety is reporting that New Line is joining ESPN in the production of the feature film Mulkey.  The film will tell the story of Louis Mulkey, a firefighter and assistant coach for a South Carolina high school basketball team.  Mulkey and eight others died in a fire in 2007, and the team he coached was inspired to win the state championship for the first time ever.  Mulkey is scripted by Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele, who partnered on Michael Mann’s Ali, and Mike Tollin is signed to direct.  Tollin assembled a documentary on the USFL for ESPN earlier this year, and has been involved with such recent inspirational sports pictures as Coach Carter, Radio, and Hardball.  More on the film’s creative and box office potential after the jump.

summerville_high_basketball_team_louis_mulkey.jpgMore than a year ago, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported on the story of the team’s state title run, which you can check out here.  The piece shows glimpses of Mulkey before he died, and documents a charisma that would translate well to the big screen.  Though I don’t know how much of the script takes place before he dies, the title suggests Mulkey would be a central character, and could attract a relatively big star.  New Line is probably motivated by the $220 million success that is The Blind Side, which has transcended the genre to earn Oscar buzz for Sandra Bullock’s role.  Perhaps with the right star turn, Mulkey could repeat such success.

Despite a general lack of interest in sports, the film has me intrigued.  I am curious to know the plot structure. When in the film does Mulkey die? Will they incorporate flashbacks?  Maybe the biopic title doesn’t imply main character status for Mulkey as much as I think it does.  Perhaps the head coach will be the main protagonist, and Mulkey’s death will serve mainly as a framing device.

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