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ESPN, NFL score biopic

Duo pact to produce 'Lombardi'

ESPN and the National Football League have expanded their relationship to include feature films.

ESPN’s Films-Motion Pictures division has joined NFL Films and Andell Entertainment as producers of “Lombardi,” about Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. The sports network’s film arm has overhauled the script. The goal is to release the picture the weekend before the 2011 Super Bowl, 40 years after the NFL named the Super Bowl trophy after Lombardi.

That release strategy could be the template for a series of gridiron films that open on the idle weekend between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.

Explaining the strategy, ESPN Films-Motion Pictures senior VP Ron Semiao said, “If you released an NFL-themed motion picture in that off week before the Super Bowl, that would give you an entire month to promote it during the playoffs and give an answer to all those people asking, ‘What am I going to do until the Super Bowl starts?’ ”

Andell Entertainment’s Andrew Hauptman is producing with Chris Olsen and Eric Hayes.

ESPN’s ability to promote the “Lombardi” film to its audience of rabid football fans gives the project a viability it didn’t have before.

The tone of the film has changed from a traditional sports film into something closer to “Raging Bull,” said Semiao, who rewrote David Murray’s script. The film is still partly based on Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer’s memoir “Instant Replay,” and Vince Lombardi Jr. and Kramer remain as consultants.

The film will highlight the long rivalry between Lombardi and Dallas Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry, who were line coaches on the New York Giants team that lost the 1958 championship game considered to be the greatest ever played. They had different styles — Landry was cool, Lombardi fire and brimstone — and their teams battled in 1967’s “Ice Bowl,” the championship game played in temperatures that reached 13 below zero.

The Packers’ victory in this game and the first two Super Bowls ever played burnished Lombardi’s legend.

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