Thorpe: Everything We Know So Far About The Track And Field Olympian’s Biopic

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Just months after the International Olympic Committee finally restored accomplished Indigenous athlete Jim Thorpe’s hard-won medals, Thorpe is set to be the subject of a new movie. Thorpe — a member of the Sac & Fox Nation where he was called Wa-Tho-Huk  — is most remembered for his impressive multi-sport career. His remarkable story, however, actually began in Oklahoma Indian country in 1887, the year of his birth. 

His life is chronicled in Robert Wheeler’s book, “Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete,” which is now set to be adapted for the big screen with a director, script, and producing team already attached. Here’s everything we know about “Thorpe” so far.

When And Where To Watch Thorpe

It’s still too early to tell when audiences should expect to see “Thorpe,” but Deadline reports that the film is “on a fast track.” The production team behind the movie already has a strong record of making swift progress to restore Thorpe’s legacy: In 2020, they started the organization Bright Path Strong with the mission to help shine a light on the athlete’s story and restore the Olympic Gold medal titles that were stripped from him on a technicality after his historic 1912 track and field wins. Just two years after they founded Bright Path Strong, Thorpe’s medals were reinstated on the 110th anniversary of his pentathlon and decathlon victories.

This isn’t the first time Hollywood has looked to make a movie about Thorpe’s life. It will be the first movie, however, that is being made by Indigenous people. In 1951, a version of Thorpe was played by white actor Burt Lancaster in Michael Curtiz’s “Jim Thorpe — All-American,” while a 2018 version of his life story with Angelina Jolie set to produce has not materialized. “Thorpe” will feature Indigenous filmmakers, and Deadline reports the project also has the Thorpe family on board.

What Thorpe Will Be About

The true story of Jim Thorpe is pretty astounding: Aside from his Olympic Gold medals for track and field, Thorpe played six seasons of Major League Baseball, was an All-American player for Pop Warner football, and even played in the National Football League. Thorpe is often considered one of the best athletes of all time, but “Thorpe” will reportedly focus not just on his own legacy, but on America’s dark history of genocidal actions against Indigenous people.

Thorpe attended Carlisle Industrial Indian School, an institution that historians say pioneered the U.S. Government’s frankly unforgivable 19th and 20th-century policies towards Indigenous children and families. The school, which applied dehumanizing forced assimilation tactics that would soon become the norm across North America, was founded by Richard Henry Pratt, who famously said, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” Producer Chris Taylor spoke about the importance of sharing Thorpe’s experience in a statement to Deadline, saying:

“The real story of the boarding schools has not been told to a broad general audience, and while this movie will be Jim’s story, it also belongs to the more than 140 tribes whose children were taken to Carlisle and the myriad additional tribes in the U.S. and Canada whose children were taken to the other schools Carlisle inspired.”

The film will draw from “Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete” by Robert Wheeler, and will reportedly tell the story of Thorpe’s time at Carlisle and continue through his ascension into sports history. Thorpe died in 1953, after surviving his time in one institution that attempted to strip him of his culture and another that — until this year — stripped him of his achievements.

What We Know About The Cast And Crew Of Thorpe

Here’s some good news: “Thorpe” has a stellar crew on board, led by director Tracey Deer. Deer, a Mohawk filmmaker, directed and co-wrote the DGA-winning film, “Beans,” and made the documentary, “Mohawk Girls.” She has also helmed episodes of “Rutherford Falls” and “Three Pines.” Deer will direct from a script by William N. Collage, who also penned the upcoming Will Smith film, “Emancipation.” Producer Nedra Darling puts it best in a statement shared to Deadline:

“We are entering a golden era in Native filmmaking and elevated representation for Native Americans in film, television and all forms of popular culture. Just as Jim was at the forefront of breaking ground for Native Americans in athletics, Tracey Deer is blazing a trail at the forefront of her industry.”

Author Wheeler will executive produce the project, while Abraham Taylor, Josh Aker, Chris Taylor and Darling — all of whom work with Bright Path Strong — will produce via Pictureworks Entertainment. As with the previously reported-upon Jolie project, “Thorpe” also has financial support from multiple Indigenous tribal partners. No cast has been announced for the film at this point, but we’ll keep you posted as further announcements are made.

Read this next: The 50 Best Documentaries You Can Watch On Netflix Right Now (December 2022)

The post Thorpe: Everything We Know So Far About the Track and Field Olympian’s Biopic appeared first on /Film.

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