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‘Seabiscuit’ team on track for ‘Mile’

Marshall to helm, McKenna to pen tale of 4-minute milers

The team behind “Seabiscuit” has dashed to bring the 20th century’s most significant two-legged racing achievement to the bigscreen.

Universal, Spyglass and Kennedy-Marshall have joined forces to option “The Perfect Mile,” a book proposal by author Neal Bascomb about the race among the world’s three premiere runners to be first to complete the mile in under four minutes. Frank Marshall, an avid runner who is also a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, will direct the film. Bruce McKenna will write the script.

Three studios were in the race for the book, which was sold based on a 44-page proposal. Houghton Mifflin will publish “The Perfect Mile” to coincide with the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Spyglass partners Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber, who came aboard “Seabiscuit” as financial partners just before it went into production, this time teamed with “Seabiscuit” producers Kennedy and Marshall to get aboard “The Perfect Mile” at its inception. The quartet will produce the pic.

“The Perfect Mile” focuses on the efforts by Oxford medical student Roger Bannister, Australian miler John Landy and publicity-hungry American runner Wes Santee to reach a sports milestone as significant as the scaling of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary. The trio had wildly different methods and personalities, so the tale takes on an element of “The Right Stuff” as they drive each other to once-unthinkable times. Bannister won the battle when he completed the mile in 3:59.4 in 1954.

Bascomb is a former St. Martin’s Press editor and ex-lit agent whose first book focused on the race to erect the tallest building in Manhattan (the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings went head to head for that title).

Joel Gotler & Associates and lit agent Scott Waxman took the “Perfect Mile” project out even before Bascomb completed the book, and the project awoke a sluggish marketplace. McKenna got aboard early, and he will begin writing the script as Bascomb completes chapters.

McKenna is best known as a writer on the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” and he’s currently adapting the Marvel Comics franchise “Hands of Shang Chi” at DreamWorks for Wu Ping to direct. U’s Mary Parent and Donna Langley will oversee the project for the studio.

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