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‘‘Free Solo’ but Down’: GQ Profile of Russian Freediver Alexey Molchanov Sets Documentary Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

Alexey Molchanov
Screenshot Courtesy of YouTube/Malchanovs Freediving

The story of Russian freediver Alexey Molchanov is coming to screen as a feature documentary, Variety has learned exclusively.

Conde Nast Entertainment has brokered a deal for a 2021 profile of Molchanov, which appeared in the pages of GQ, to be adapted into a film from Boardwalk Pictures and production company ClubHaus.

Boardwalk is behind hits like Netflix’s unscripted series “Cheer” and Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Sex, Love & Goop.” At the beginning of the pandemic, they signed executive and producer Jonathan Hausfater to an overall deal. The Molchanov documentary will appear under that arrangement, with involvement from Conde Nast Entertainment’s head of development and production Helen Estabrook.

In September, Molchanov dove 430 feet into the water, lasting 4:33 total, on a single breath. GQ global editorial director Will Welch called Molchanov’s story “remarkable,” and still remembers his favorite sentence from the Daniel Riley story, describing the diver’s remarkable: “’Free Solo’ but down.”

Welch caught up with Variety while in town for the magazine’s Men of the Year celebration, back in person after a pandemic hiatus. The evening, which attracted Oscar hopefuls and other A-listers seeking refuge from awards season campaigning, celebrated the magazine’s cover stars Lil Nas X, NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo and actor Tom Holland at Ian Schrager’s Edition hotel in West Hollywood.

“This issue subtly continues our idea of a new masculinity,” Welch said, “where outdated ideas are being left behind and men are becoming more open-minded and emotionally intelligent, taking care of themselves and embracing the world.”

The magazine is also embracing Hollywood like never before. This year they also set an adaptation of the story “The Great Chinese Art Heist,” with Jon M. Chu directing for Warner Bros.

“We’ve been getting in line to have conversations with the studios and streaming services before our pieces publish. We’re ahead of it — instead of playing catch-up or waiting for the phone to ring — and we’re seeing the benefits,” said Welch.

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Courtesy of Martin Brown/GQ