Mangold, Gyllenhaal Guarantee Victory with ‘Namath’

Joe Namath and Jake Gyllenhaal

All the way back in the dark ages — also known as 2007 — we reported about a project that would put Jake Gyllenhaal in the role of famed NFL quarterback and off-the-field Lothario Joe Namath. At the time, the David Hollander-scripted biopic was being shopped around, never to be heard from again. This week it’s back thanks to word from Pajiba, who say that not only is Gyllenhaal in, but he’s bringing Walk the Line director James Mangold along for the ride as well.

According to the report, Universal Pictures is ready to take another pass at the Hollander script with Mangold attached to direct. The script will apparently tell the story of Joe Namath’s rise to rock star status in the NFL. Here’s the description from Pajiba, which is far better than anything I could come up with:

Namath will be a biopic about Broadway Joe Namath, the Beaver Falls, PA kid who would later become the first “rock star” of the NFL. He was a cultural figure in the ’60s, helped to merge the AFL with the NFL by defeating the Baltimore Colts, became the first real commercial star of the NFL (paving the way for round-the-clock Peyton Manning commercials), and of course, got ridiculously drunk and tried to make out with Suzy Kolber on national TV. He did this all despite having knees so bad that doctors wouldn’t clear him to go to Vietnam.

The delay has given Gyllenhaal time to mature as an actor, and it has given the studio time to find a director who could make the story of Joe Namath more than just another football movie. As an unapologetic fan of Walk the Line and how wonderfully it told the story of Johnny Cash, I can’t say that Mangold is a surprise choice. He’s a more than capable storyteller who has proven himself to have a careful hand when dealing with an iconic real-world person. That, and he’s got a bit of an eye for action. 3:10 to Yuma proved that. The combination of action on-field and drama off the field are keys to making a good football biopic. The only question that remains is whether or not production will gear up soon. Mangold is coming off Knight and Day — but has several juicy projects in his queue — and Gyllenhaal is not yet finished working on Duncan Jones’ Source Code. At this point, “another pass” at the script could mean that all of this is moot — we may not see Broadway Joe on screen anytime soon. But when we do, there’s a chance that it will be a winner…

What do you think of the pairing of James Mangold and Jake Gyllenhaal for a Namath biopic?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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