Producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher have hitched their Red Wagon banner to a bio on NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt.
Wick and Fisher have made a deal to tell the life story of the stock car driver, who was killed in a crash in the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. The deal comes just as Dale Earnhardt Jr. rolls into Sunday’s Daytona 500 for the first time since leaving DEI, the racing empire built by his dad.
Earnhardt’s widow, Teresa, and son Dale Jr. have both pledged their cooperation on the biopic even though their relationship is strained — he left DEI after his stepmother refused his request for majority control.
Earnhardt, who drove the famous No. 3 black Chevy, won seven NASCAR Winston Cup titles, 76 career races and more than $40 million in purses, finally winning Daytona in 1998 after losing the prestigious race 20 times. Earnhardt’s daring driving and charisma made him so popular that, right before his death, 25% of NASCAR’s $1.1 billion in merchandise sales were devoted to him.
Wick and Fisher will produce with Richard Blackstone, who reps DEI, and Bernie Cahill of Roar. Max Siegel, DEI’s president of global operations, is also closely involved. Sony-based Red Wagon will first shop the project at the studio, though the producers may wait to attach a director and star. They said the picture will be put on a fast track.
“We went to our first NASCAR race in Vegas, and there was exhilaration, showmanship, athleticism, and Dale is that sport’s Babe Ruth,” Wick said. “Dale had this death-defying job but a sense of humor that had him saying, after walking away from a bad crash, ‘Win some, lose some, wreck some.'”
Onscreen racing has had more misses than hits. “Days of Thunder” failed to capture the huge racing fan base, while “Talladega Nights” scored a hit with NASCAR’s cooperation. The producers said Earnhardt’s icon status will draw the fans, and visual effects advances make it possible to create the danger and energy that drivers experience but haven’t translated in past films.
There is also a love story, between Dale and Teresa, and a generational father and son story. Earnhardt watched his father die before he gained traction as a driver, and Dale Jr. was just finding his way and was in the race at Daytona in 2001 when his father was killed. Dale Jr.’s car will feature an Adidas-sponsored tribute to the No. 3, the famed number that Dale Sr. wore on his black Chevy racecar, at this weekend’s race.