Brian Helgeland to Write and Direct Jackie Robinson Biopic

     June 1, 2011


In early April, we reported that Robert Redford was set to star in a biopic about Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey from writer-director Brian Hegleland.  The film would center on Rickey’s decision to integrate Major League Baseball by hiring Jackie Robinson.  At the time, I voiced my disappointment that we would have to see Robinson’s story through Rickey’s perspective when—all due respect to Rickey’s legacy—it was Robinson’s story that was worth telling on its own.

Now it looks like I’ve gotten my way.  Legendary Pictures has sent out a press release annoucning that Helgeland will still write and direct, but it now looks like the movie is now about Robinson.  Nowhere in the press release is Rickey mentioned.  While Robinson’s story was previously filmed as The Jackie Robinson Story, and that movie actually starred Robinson as himself.  For the new biopic, Legendary will collaborate with Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson on the picture.  While I’m not the biggest fan of Helgeland (for every L.A. Confidential, there’s a Robin Hood, Cirque du Freak, and The Taking of Pelham 123 remake), I hope he’ll do justice to Robinson’s story.  Hit the jump for the press release.

Here’s the press release:


jackie-robinson-01Burbank, CA – June 1, 2011 – Legendary Pictures announced today that it will develop and produce a new film based on history’s most celebrated baseball figure, Jackie Robinson.  The movie will pay tribute to the legacy and impact Robinson made when he became the first African American Major League Baseball player.

Legendary will collaborate with Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, to ensure the authenticity of the famed player’s story.  Brian Helgeland (LA CONFIDENTIAL / MYSTIC RIVER) will write and direct, with Legendary’s Chairman and CEO, Thomas Tull, producing, and Legendary’s Chief Creative Officer, Jon Jashni, serving as executive producer. Dick Cook, former Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, will also serve as an executive producer.  The project will fall under Legendary’s overall agreement with Warner Bros.

“We are deeply honored and grateful to be able to bring the Jackie Robinson story to audiences around the world,” said Tull.  “The legacy he left on history, society and the sport of baseball is one that will never be forgotten, and we are pleased to tell this amazing story of a true American hero.”

“My family and I are thrilled to have this important film on Jack produced by Legendary Pictures.  We are proud of his lasting impact on our society, and we know that the legacy he left is inspiring and worth preserving,” said Rachel Robinson.

“There are few opportunities that come along as a filmmaker that allow the opportunity to share a true story with your audience, let alone one as powerful and inspiring as that of Jackie Robinson’s,” stated Helgeland.  “I believe that with the support of Rachel Robinson we have a unique opportunity to bring one of the most famed stories in American culture and baseball to the screen.”

About Legendary Entertainment

Legendary Entertainment is a leading media company with film, television and comics divisions dedicated to owning, producing and delivering content to mainstream audiences with a targeted focus on the powerful fandom demographic.  Through complete or joint ownership, Legendary is building a library of marquee media properties and has established itself as a trusted brand which consistently delivers high-quality, commercial entertainment including some of the world’s most popular intellectual property.  Among the wholly-owned projects that Legendary Pictures is currently developing in-house are an adaptation of the phenomenally successful interactive game universe Warcraft, to be directed by Sam Raimi (Spiderman); Godzilla, based on Toho Company’s famed character; Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro; Warren Ellis’ Gravel; and Mass Effect, based on Electronic Arts and BioWare’s hit videogame franchise.  With partner Warner Bros., Legendary’s productions include the recent smash hit, The Hangover Part II, which holds the distinction of posting the highest opening weekend gross ever for a comedy film, the critically acclaimed Inception, which has been a box office smash grossing more than $823 million worldwide, as well as the global blockbusters Clash of the Titans ($493 million worldwide), The Dark Knight ($1 billion worldwide), 300 ($456 million worldwide) and The Hangover ($467 million worldwide).

  • Matt

    It’s funny how everyone remembers Robinson but not Larry Doby who came into the major leagues a couple of months behind Robinson, who endured everything Robinson did but without the fanfare or media.

    I hope the movie doesn’t skimp over the mistakes Robinson made after his career was over – endorsing Nixon for president, or testifying against Paul Robeson in front of congress.

    • rick

      Hi Matt, when I was in college we went to a local park one day for practice, and this guy came up to me to work with me on hitting. I did not know him, but he introduced himself as Larry. He was really nice to me and took the time to work with me on some points about watching and adjusting to a pitch. Of course, now I know it was Larry Doby….he was a great guy and humble enough to teach a kid :)
      My Dad was with the Dodgers for a short while (had hip problem and had to retire) and was on the field with Jackie, who treated him like Larry treated me. Aside from all the media stuff and outside people’s viewpoints or opinions, these guys were first and foremost ballplayers, and loved what they were able to do day after day…without all the money and fanfare, they and all during that time represented the real type of guy who played….for the love of it :)

  • Al

    To be honest I feel like the story of Jackie Robinson is so played out at this point from T.V. movies to biographies to even KIDS BOOKS! It’s probably one of the most known baseball stories of all time. I’d rather see a movie about baseball and racism starring someone like Willie Mays or Satchel Paige than Jackie Robinson just because the story does have such a T.V. movie feel at this point, at least to me, though I’m sure if the story was willing to get down and dirty with the facts I could see them making a solid film but it would still probably be the same old biopic movie formula, I’m guessing.

  • Cordell

    I think Oliver Stone should be the director of a movie like this…he is pretty fanatical about historical accuracies. Then, you have to make sure you get a great actor to play Jackie, a young up and coming guy like Anthony Mackie or a Derek Lee.

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  • J.J.

    I know he catches a lot of flack, 98% of it being self inflicted, but if Spike Lee doesn’t direct this movie it will be a crime. Helgeland is a fine writer but his directing skills leave a lot to be desired. I did enjoy his version of “Payback”. Mr. Lee courts plenty of controversy, but he had made some truly great films. In addition he is a Jackie Robinson fanatic and would bring true passion to the film.
    As far as casting, if Anthony Mackie is not cast as Robinson cancel Christmas. A truly gifted young actor just waiting for the role that puts his name on the so called “A” list. If Tarantino had a hair on his balls he would cast Mackie as Django.

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  • Fawn

    I’ve been searching and searching for the Jackie Robinson photo you are using in this article – Jackie at bat looking straight ahead (the 2nd photo). I can’t find the owner of the photo. I’d like to purchase clearances for use on a web site for about two months. AP doesn’t have it. Corbis doesn’t have it. Where did you get it? Do you know who owns the rights. Need this info as soon as possible. Thanks.

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