Chuck Wepner, a not-so-great white hope in boxing lore, can at least hold out hope that a two-for-one deal in how his life story has been told may be more than just a sidebar from what Sylvester Stallone strategically borrowed to create an Oscar-winning feature film some 40 years ago.
Liev Schreiber appears on the big screen portraying Wepner in the new movie “Chuck,” which launches in two L.A. and two New York theaters this weekend with plans for an expanded distribution nationwide by Memorial Day. It comes a knock-down, drag-out six years after an ESPN’s “30 For 30” documentary called “The Real Rocky” made its TV run (and still available on Amazon Films for $4.99 a watch).
This unique double feature, spearheaded on both ends by well-versed documentarian and film producer Mike Tollin, was supposed to happen on a tighter timeline. But the ultimate purpose of the multimedia approach is to give each audience what it professes to want – a sports doc for ESPN, then a based-on-a-true-story drama for moviegoers who don’t want to feel confined by the trappings of a “boxing film” genre that ironically is what led to the success of Stallone’s “Rocky” franchise.
“It’s been an epic journey, but really it’s a confluence of events – the ESPN documentary raised the profile of the Wepner story, with all those interviews we did, and then this script was also done to propel this forward,” said Tollin, the San Fernando Valley-based producer of sports films such as “Varsity Blues,” “Radio” and “Coach Carter,” as well as the HBO doc “Kareem: Minority of One” and ESPN’s miniseries “The Bronx is Burning.”
Tollin, who teamed with Peter Guber to launch Mandalay Sports Media as a company to champion a new way of getting scripts made into movies at a more lean-and-mean cost, is also partnered with IFC Films and Millennium Films to get “Chuck” to the finish line.
They bleed for this
For several years, as backers for the…