DreamWorks has picked up the movie rights to Phenomenon, Roseanne Montillo's biography of Betty Robinson, which details how Robinson became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field and the incredible challenges she surmounted to win her second.
Frank Marshall is on board to produce the adaptation along with Rob Weisbach. Montillo and Kevin Yorn will co-produce.
Phenomenon has been described by those in the know as Unbroken meets A League of Their Own, with a dose of Chariots of Fire and The Boys in the Boat thrown in.
Born in Illinois in 1911, Betty Robinson set an unofficial world record in the 100-meter at the age of 16. Then, at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, running in just her fourth official 100-meter race, Robinson won gold — the first gold medal awarded to a woman in track and field at the Olympics.
In 1931, tragedy struck when Robinson was involved in a terrible plane crash. The man who discovered her in the wreckage, believing her dead, put her in his trunk to drive her to the morgue, only to discover later she was still alive.
Robinson spent months in a coma and months more in a wheelchair. It took her two years to learn to walk again, and, incredibly, she was able to make the U.S. team for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. During the 4x100-meter relay, the heavily favored German team bobbled a hand-off and the Americans won gold, giving Robinson her second medal.
The book sold at auction to Crown in April. Publication is expected in 2017.
Montillo, repped by Rob Weisbach Creative Management, is an Emerson College lit professor who has previously written Lady and Her Monsters, about the creation of Mary Shelley's literary masterpiece, and The Wilderness of Ruin, which followed the hunt for America's youngest serial killer.
The book acquisition is the latest move by a reinvigorated DreamWorks as it focuses on more projects that are in tone with co-founder Steven Spielberg’s original shingle, Amblin Entertainment, which at its height produced both movies with a sense of adventure, such as The Goonies and Back to the Future, and movies imbued with a triumphant human spirit, such as The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun.
The deal follows the company’s win earlier this month of Alpha Squad Seven, a sci-fi action comedy pitch with Dwayne Johnson attached, and March’s pickup of a Colin Trevorrow sci-fi project titled Intelligent Life.
Marshall produced the upcoming Jurassic World and is working on Spielberg’s fantasy pic, The BFG, currently in production.
The producer is also very connected to the Olympics, having been a former member of the board of directors and former member of the executive committee of the United States Olympic Committee. He was also inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008 for his years of service to the USOC.
CAA repped the film deal on behalf of Rob Weisbach Creative Management.