An upcoming film about Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug has become a hot item in a bidding war at the European Film Market in Berlin. The biopic will be titled Perfect and is set to be directed by Olivia Wilde, best known as an actor but coming off her filmmaking debut with last summer’s Booksmart.
Perfect is based on Strug’s memoir (written with John P. Lopez), titled Landing On My Feet, A Diary of Dreams. The script was written by Ronnie Sandahl, who wrote another recent sports film, the very good Borg vs. McEnroe. The film will follow Strug’s signature performance at the 1996 Summer Olympics, during which the 18-year-old led the U.S. women’s gymnastics team to a gold medal despite a severely injured ankle.
Afterward, Strug had to be carried to the medals podium and was soon thereafter taken to a hospital to treat her ankle for tendon damage. She became a national hero for her performance, celebrated on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a SportsCenter ad campaign, while appearing on several talk shows and Saturday Night Live, and even meeting President Bill Clinton.
Casting is now underway for the project. The search for actors to play Strug and coach Bela Karolyi will likely be scrutinized as both are well-known public figures. The challenge in casting Strug will surely develop in deciding how important athletic skills will be versus acting talent. Or will a stand-in perform the gymnastics routines, while an actor portrays the real-life dramatic moments of the story? How important will it be to cast an established actor in a prominent role?
“This is a film about what real power looks like,” Wilde said in a statement, via TheWrap. “It is an excruciatingly beautiful underdog story that will thrust the audience into the heart of Kerri Strug with unblinking, raw honesty. It is an epic sports movie that will deliver on all the wish-fulfillment that makes those films so thrilling to watch. At the same time, it is unlike any sports movie you have seen before.”
Best script I’ve ever read. I worked hard to get this gig. This story is unreal. ?. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to tell it my way. https://t.co/D5ANkLpLdA
— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) February 14, 2020
Interestingly, Wilde recently appeared in another film set against the 1996 Olympics, portraying journalist Kathy Scruggs in Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell. Scruggs’ portrayal in the movie created controversy for its implication that the reporter slept with an FBI source to get information for a story.
Wilde drew much more acclaim for her directorial debut with Booksmart, a film about two best friends who try to make up for four years of putting off fun in favor of studying right before graduation. Earlier this month, she won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.
Calling the script for Perfect the best she’s ever read, Wilde appeared in Berlin last week to promote the film to potential buyers. The presentation reportedly drew a strong response and ignited a days-long bidding war among studios.
According to Variety, Searchlight Pictures (now part of The Walt Disney Company after the Disney-Fox merger) appears to be the front-runner for world distribution rights of the film. But several other studios, including Warner Bros., A24, and Neon (which distributed the Tonya Harding biopic I, Tonya), are still in pursuit.