Jesse Owens Biopic ‘Race’ Runs to U.K.’s Altitude

LIVERPOOL — Altitude Film Distribution has acquired the U.K. distribution rights to Stephen Hopkins’ “Race,” which follows African-American athlete Jesse Owens’ rise to become four-time Olympic gold medallist at the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany. Focus Features released the film in the U.S. on Friday.

In 1936 the Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany. Organized by the ruling Nazi Party, the Games were intended to showcase Hitler’s vision of the supremacy of the Aryan race. That dream was shattered by Owens.

Directed and produced by Stephen Hopkins, who won an Emmy for “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” the film stars Stephan James (“Selma”) as Owens and Jason Sudeikis (“We’re the Millers,” “Horrible Bosses”), and also features Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and Carice Van Houten (“Game of Thrones”). The film was written by Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel (“Frankie & Alice”).

Hamish Moseley, Altitude Film Entertainment’s head of distribution, said: “With the Rio Olympics just around the corner, and the 80th anniversary of Owens’ success, it couldn’t be a better time to celebrate such an icon on the big screen.”

“Race” producer Jean Charles Levy said: “This is a very timely film and all the subjects tackled in the film are unfortunately still very relevant … We are proud to have found a way to address this in a film that is both commercial and educative.”

Altitude Film Distribution has expanded its slate extensively over the two and half years since its launch. Last year it released feature documentary “Amy,” which grossed over £3.76 million ($5.3 million) at the U.K. box office. Other releases included Nick Read’s “Bolshoi Babylon,” Ira Sachs’ “Love Is Strange” and Bharat Nalluri’s “Spooks: The Greater Good.” Forthcoming releases include Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room,” Oren Moverman’s “Time Out of Mind,” Vincent Perez’s “Alone in Berlin” and Asif Kapadia’s “Maradona.”

The “Race” deal was negotiated between Altitude’s Will Clarke and Mister Smith Entertainment’s David Garrett.

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