Telepic called 'Pumping Iron' meets 'Primary Colors'

The first showbiz consequence of Arnold Schwarzenegger winning the race for California governor is A&E greenlighting the development of biopic “See Arnold Run.”

A&E is billing the movie, to be produced by Gerald W. Abrams and Michael Goldstein, as “Pumping Iron” meets “Primary Colors.” The picture will start with Schwarzenegger in the middle of his gubernatorial campaign and flash back to 1973, when his driving ambition as a bodybuilder was to become Mr. Olympia.

Vexed by drawing too many older viewers in the last few years, A&E hopes to use biopics like “See Arnold Run” and previously announced TV movies based on the lives of Hillary Clinton and Bette Davis to appeal to younger viewers.

For the third quarter, A&E lost 19% of its 18-to-49 viewership compared with the same period in 2002, and dropped 13% in 25-54.

Abbe Raven, executive VP and general manager of A&E, said that her programming strategy, spearheaded by Bob DeBitetto, senior VP of programming, is to do more contemporary movies to go with historical miniseries and movies such as “Napoleon,” “Shackleton” and “Victoria & Albert.”

A&E has bought off-network rights to “CSI: Miami” and a package of theatrical movies from Miramax, as well as sprucing up its nonfiction series like “Biography” and “American Justice” with stories that will be more appealing to a younger demographic, said Raven.

“It was inevitable that A&E would embrace biopics,” said Bob Thompson, head of media studies at Syracuse U. Another nonfiction “A&E Biography” profile of Schwarzenegger would’ve put the network’s audience to sleep, “because we’ve seen all of the Arnold clips before.”

By contrast, the rules for a biopic are much looser. “A scriptwriter can take poetic license and make up dialogue,” Thompson said. “There can be lots of speculation and personal stuff. We’ll actually get to see Arnold groping all of those women.”

A&E’s Bette Davis biopic, yet untitled, will come from Brooksfilms’ Stan Brooks and Greg Gugliotta, with Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy”) as the writer.

“Hillary’s Choice,” is based on the bestselling book of the same name by Gail Sheehy. Carlton America will produce.

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