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ESPN revs up biopic on Earnhardt

Future of 'Playmakers' still undecided

ESPN has given the go-ahead for its third original movie, “3: The Dale Earnhardt Story,” a biopic about the legendary racecar driver who died in a crash during the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

Ron Semiao, senior VP of original entertainment for ESPN, said “Earnhardt” exec producer Orly Adelson is casting the movie, to be directed by Russell Mulcahy from a screenplay by Robert Eisele. Semaio declined to discuss production costs, but based on ESPN’s two previous movies, “A Season on the Brink” and “The Junction Boys,” “Earnhardt” probably will come in at $5 million or so.

ESPN still hasn’t decided yet whether to renew or cancel its first scripted series, “Playmakers,” Semiao said. The show’s solid ratings would justify a renewal, but the National Football League and its players union have excoriated the program, saying it focuses too much on the dark side of pro football. Episodes have dealt with drug-taking, wife-beating and gambling, among other dysfunctional behavior. Semiao said ESPN has another two months or so before it must make a final decision on show’s fate.

Bloomin’ ‘Rose’

Another biopic, “Hustle: The Pete Rose Story,” is in what Semiao calls “the final stages of development.” Story will zero in on Rose’s gambling, which got him barred from baseball. Semiao said Christian Darren has written a solid script, making “Hustle” ESPN’s likely fourth movie.

Another movie project far along in development is “Four Minutes,” a docudrama about the breaking of the four-minute mile in 1953 by Olympian Roger Bannister. The producers are Gerry Abrams and Bud Greenspan; Frank DeFord wrote the script.

Also in the works as a script is “October Men,” based on the book by Roger Kahn about the colorful New York Yankees of 1977 and 1978, when the team won back-to-back World Series.

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