By Erin Free

9780007184590WHAT’S IT ABOUT? “I thought I was Elvis Presley, but I’ll tell ya something,” Evel Knievel once said. “All Elvis did was stand on a stage and play a guitar. He never fell off on that pavement at no 80 mph.” The greatest and most famous motorcycle stunt daredevil who ever lived, Montana-born Evel Knievel (nee Robert Craig Knievel) famously jumped the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and tore over Snake River Canyon while the world watched. He was a man’s man and apparently clean-living role model who cannily marketed himself as an all-American hero. Beneath the perfectly engineered image, however, Knievel scrapped with all manner of personal demons. For years, he fought soul-scarring battles with gambling and the bottle, and though married to first wife Linda for 38 years, he made the most of his superstar status. “I must have slept with 2,000 women,” Knievel once said. “I slept with eight in 24 hours for a bet.” He was also an eccentric, down-home philosopher, with a swathe of bizarre opinions on politics, morality and America. Featured in The Guinness Book Of Records for having the most broken bones in a single year, Knievel died in 2007 at the age of 69, his body battered and shattered not just by his extreme stunt work, but also by the long term effects of Hepatitis C, which he contracted during one of his many injury-caused blood transfusions. “I thought I was bulletproof or Superman there for a while,” Knievel once said. “I thought I’d never run out of nerve. Never.”

WHY WOULD IT MAKE A GOOD MOVIE? Though there have been biopics produced on him before (the 1971 puff piece Evel Knievel, starring the curiously cast George Hamilton) and even an actual cinematic starring vehicle (the kitsch 1977 action flick Viva Knievel, in which the daredevil played himself), there has not been a big budget, large-scale telling of Knievel’s life story, though there have been many rumoured projects over the years. Complete with sex, stunts, complex personal relationships and a charismatic anti-hero, Evel Knievel: Life Of Evil could be a big, vibrant biopic of the first order.

Matthew McConaughey, Leslie Mann, Evan Rachel Wood, Oliver Stone
Matthew McConaughey, Leslie Mann, Evan Rachel Wood, Oliver Stone

WHO SHOULD MAKE IT? With its vivid depiction of essential Americana and its complicated central character, Evel Knievel: Life Of Evil would be perfect for writer/director, Oliver Stone, one of modern cinema’s greatest documenters of American pop culture. He would excel not just in the film’s show-stopping stunt scenes, but also in its portrait of a man who seemed to have everything yet was never truly happy, and of a nation obsessed with watching him put his life on the line in the name of public spectacle.

WHO SHOULD BE IN IT? With his southern charm and slight glint of madness, Matthew McConaughey (a noted friend of the late daredevil) could perfectly essay Evel Knievel’s sassy, punchy character quirks, hitting on the stunt rider’s complicated mix of cock-sure bravado, interior self-loathing, and messianic eccentricity. As Linda, Evel’s stoic, dutiful wife of 38 years, the funny and charming Leslie Mann (Knocked Up) could imbue the character with the right kind of steely determination and good humour. The other central female role is that of Krystal Kennedy, the 22-year-old who Knievel married in 1999. Tough and resourceful, she nursed the daredevil through much of his later-life ill health, and would be a nice fit for accomplished young actress Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler, Mildred Pierce, the upcoming Westworld). In this kaleidoscopic true story, there would also be roles for real life figures galore, making for a big, gutsy, pop-flavoured epic.

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