The long hoped for movie adaptation of the best-selling ESPN tome Those Guys Have All The Fun took a major step forward this week. In an interview on The Dan Patrick Show, author Jim Miller confirmed that he would be writing the screenplay for Focus Features in hopes of bringing the story of ESPN to the silver screen.
How did it come together? I reached Miller by phone on Tuesday and he revealed some more details about the process and his hopes for the movie version.
“It got finalized quite recently,” Miller said. “Focus had the option since the fall and they were talking to different writers, I made my pitch and I appreciate the opportunity to take a crack at it. When you’re adapting your own book there’s an emotional component to it because I worked on it for three years.”
Miller worked for three years on the book and logged over 500 interviews for the oral history. Since the publishing of the book, he’s remained an authority on ESPN breaking news on Twitter and writing about the network in the New York Times. In transitioning ESPN’s story from written work to film, there’s no better choice.
“I’ve been doing screenwriting for many years so it wasn’t like the idea of writing the script for this was a remote idea,” said Miller. “Once I realized there was interest it was something that of course I wanted to do. But just because you want to do it doesn’t mean you get the chance to do it, so I’m glad it worked out.”
Those Guys Have All The Fun was published in 2011 and became a #1 New York Times best-seller. The oral history covered all things ESPN from before its inception to the time of publishing, covering everything from the on-air personalities to the leaders behind the scenes to the mundane social life of Bristol, Connecticut.
With a 35+ year history to draw from, the immediate question on every mind is which era of ESPN the movie would focus on. Will it be a story about its humble and tenuous beginnings as an upstart underdog? Or a story about its rise to becoming a global behemoth and one of the richest, most valuable companies in the world? Would it focus on one of the pivotal decision-makers in ESPN’s history or some of its most volatile and notable personalities? The possibilities are limitless. (If interested, you can read some of our original pitches here.)
In his interview with Patrick, Miller mentioned his hope that the movie would have a wider timespan, but he was coy about sharing any more potential script details. “Even though it’s basically been approved it’s an organic process in the writing when they realize certain things don’t work and they’ll be changed. I’m going to stay away from talking about specifics of the story for now,” Miller said.
Regardless of where the film version falls, Miller knows that whatever story or stories are pulled from ESPN’s mammoth history, it will have to be something that resonates with sports fans and non-sports fans alike. The film revolving aroud the worldwide leader in sports is going to have to reach out to people who don’t know Schefter from Adam.
“This movie is not being written for just fans of ESPN,” Miller remarked. “Hopefully we’ll have stories and characters and something to say that appeals to people who have never turned the channel on. People who have never been on Facebook enjoyed Social Network. People who may not be baseball fans enjoyed MoneyBall. People who may not be political junkies enjoyed Game Change. Those movies captured real-life people and brought their stories to the screen and did so in a compelling, dramatic way.”
“The reason I was so passionate about doing it was because I thought it was something that would resonate and something people would have interest in.”
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