Paramount Pictures is revving up a coming-of-age film about James “Bubba” Stewart, a teen who is to motocross racing what Tiger Woods is to golf.
Michael London will produce with C/W partners Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner.
The film is being written by David Gordon Green (“George Washington”) and will mark the feature directing debut of celebrity photographer Sam Jones.
Taught by his father to ride before he could walk, Stewart was winning titles by the time he was 7, and at 16 became the first African-American to win a major motorsports title. He has so dominated the 125cc division that he’s been known to lay down his bike during a race to let competitors catch up.
Stewart faces his biggest test Saturday in Anaheim, when he steps up to the 250cc supercross class and takes on the division’s dominant champ, Ricky Carmichael. Producers are scrambling to have cameras ready to capture footage to be used in the film.
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Jones, who with Green will be in the pits watching Stewart on Saturday, said the film’s core will be the relationship between the phenom and his father, James Stewart Sr., a local racer who molded his son to achieve dreams he was denied. The son’s sudden success has strained their relationship.
“My dad was a racecar driver, and I’ve always been fascinated with father-son relationships, where a kid grows up with such high expectations,” Jones said.
Jones and London spent about two years winning the trust of the Stewart family. A millionaire teen who has Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Ken Griffey Jr. on speed dial, Stewart was hardly overwhelmed by a Hollywood option deal.
Jones had photographed Cruise for magazine covers, and they bonded over bike racing. When Jones told Cruise what he and London were trying to do, Cruise got excited and personally courted Stewart.
In an unusual development, Par topper Donald De Line has allowed development to progress without assigning an exec. The producers wanted it that way so they could flesh out their script before delivering it to the studio.
Jones branched into commercials and videos and directed “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” a documentary about the band Wilco.