Greg Louganis Feature Biopic In Development: Matthew Wilder Screenplay

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Greg Louganis - Photo Courtesy: Arya Worldwide Entertainment

Greg Louganis, the Olympic diving champion, legend and humanitarian, and his manager, Greg. H. Sims, of Arya Worldwide Entertainment, are in development on a feature film of Louganis’ life following a very complicated process of obtaining the rights to his story.

Mathew Wilder (Dog Eat Dog, Regarding the Case of Joan of Arc) will write the screenplay.

The film will be expanding on those themes and events first explored in Louganis and Eric Marcus’ 1996 book Breaking the Surface, which spent five weeks at number-one on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Breaking the Surface was subsequently made into a television film for USA Network, starring Mario Lopez.  Accordingly, a variety of companies – publishers, networks and distributors had been involved with the story – securing of Louganis’ own life rights came after a year-long process in order to establish a clear chain of title according to Sims, “This was a complex process that was made possible by the work of Loeb and Loeb, and lead attorney and partner Irwin Tenenbaum.” Loeb represents Louganis, Sims and the project.

Louganis is noted as the greatest Olympic diver in history, with one silver, and four Gold medals which he won in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.  He is also a leading figure in HIV / AIDS activism and is currently the Sports Director for Red Bull Cliff Diving and a regular on the Fortune 500 companies speaking circuit. In 2015 he was the subject of the Emmy, nominated HBO documentary “Greg Louganis: Back on the Board,” he is expected to have a number of  high-profile positions during the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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Greg Louganis – Photo Courtesy: Arya Worldwide Entertainment

Said Louganis:

“Timing is something we don’t always have control over. Every phase of my life feels like a gift, and the timing to make this film feels right. I was grateful for the success of my book, for the television film, for the HBO documentary and its Emmy nomination, and for everything else, including my Wheaties box.  I feel like I’m being accepted as a whole person now, and love that so much of this has happened in the last few years.  I’m excited to have my story in development and to be made as a feature film and I  am thrilled to share my story with a new generation.”

Matthew Wilder Screenplay

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Greg Louganis – Photo Courtesy: Arya Worldwide Entertainment

Matthew Wilder who is writing the script is noted as penning director Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog, starring Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe, which was the closing entry for the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. He recently wrote and directed Regarding the Case of Joan of Arc, which was the centerpiece selection at last year’s Goa, the national film festival of India, and set for release in 2020.

In 2020, Wilder is directing his reboot of the 70’s horror movie The Velvet Vampire.  Robert Schwentke is directing Wilder’s On the Creation of Earthquakes, a biopic of the Roman senator Seneca, featuring John Malkovich as Seneca.  Wilder’s screenplay Inferno, the story of Linda Lovelace, was on the 2008 Black-List of the best un-filmed scripts in Hollywood. Wilder’s deal was handled by Jon Brown of Ensemble Entertainment.

Sims has a long history as a producer of indie films, going back to the early George Clooney film Red Surf, cult classic Return to Horror High, thriller Behind Your Eyes, starring Vanderpump Rules’ Tom Sandoval, and Touch Me, an official selection of the Toronto Film Festival, starring Amanda Peet, Michael Vartan, and Louganis in a co-starring role.

As a personal manager, in addition to Louganis, Sims’ past clients include Nancy McKeon from “Facts of Life,” brother Philip McKeon from “Alice,” Lukas Haas, Emmy winner Scott Jacoby, and more recently, music clients including European superstar Anouk, The Motels and leading trance vocalist Evan Henzi.

From the Archive

There is no shortage of epic material for a biopic of the life of this Olympic legend.

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Greg Louganis at Seoul 1988 – Photo Courtesy: Korea Herald / ISHOF Archive

Greg Louganis is the only male diver ever to retain both the Olympic platform and springboard titles – in 1984 and 1988 – and the only diver to win three successive world platform crowns, Craig Lord writes.

In 1984 he became the first diver to win both titles at the same Games since 1928 and the first ever to score more than 700 points.

He might have enjoyed three successive Olympic triumphs had it not been for the boycott of 1980.

His skill was spectacular. Sammy Lee, Olympic diving champion in 1948 and 1952 said of Louganis:

“When I first watched him I said to myself ‘My God, that’s the greatest talent I’ve ever seen.”

Judges thought so too, while scribes described him as the Baryshnikov of diving, the execution of his talent both athletic and aesthetic. When Louganis was asked what he most closely resembled, he pondered before opting for “a panther”.

His achievements compensated for a the disadvantages and prejudices he faced in life. At nine months of age, Louganis, the son of a Samoan father and European mother, both of whom were just 15 when they became parents, was adopted by a Californian couple.

Named Gregory Efthimios Louganis by his adoptive parents, the diver showed athleticism from a young age and loved to perform before an audience. He had dance and tap lessons and took part in shows.

On the darker side, his childhood was plagued by the bullying he suffered from peers who mocked his stutter, his dyslexia and his mixed race. He later recalled being called “nigger” and “retard”, and remembered the regular beatings he endured from fellow pupils at school.

To escape, Louganis took to drink and smoking tobacco and marijuana. He was just 12 and considered himself an alcoholic. When that contributed to him kicking his mother, his parents handed him over to the police.

There was also another escape – diving. His parents had a pool in the backyard and the young Louganis started to perform acrobatics off a diving board.

He took part in the Junior Olympics at Colorado Springs when he was just 11, when he caught the eye of Sammy Lee, by then a physician who also happened to run the diving programme at Mission Viejo Swim Club.

When asked by Louganis senior how much he would have to pay for coaching, Lee, according to Sports Illustrated, replied:

“I do it for love. But listen, he’ll have to live up to these requirements: no smoking, no drinking, and I want my home pool cleaned regularly.”

Greg Louganis, 1984 – Photo Courtesy: YouTube

And so the great talent was nurtured. At 16, Louganis made the US diving team for the 1976 Olympic Games. He finished second in the platform behind Klaus Dibiasi, the Italian who is the only diver ever to win three successive Olympic titles – his victories achieved in 1968, 1972 and 1976 – and sixth in the springboard.

He won his first world platform title in 1978 before the boycott of the Moscow Games prevented him from confirming his supremacy at the Games. In 1982 he won both platform and springboard world titles.

By 1984, there was no doubt about who was the greatest diver of the era, as Louganis sailed to his first double. Four years later, he retained the titles but as memorable as the dives was the one dive in which he hit his head on the board.

After the incident, Louganis was seen crying on the shoulder of his coach Ron O’Brien. Louganis’s head was patched up and he carried on competing. Later, however, he would reveal the real reason behind his emotion.

Six months before the Games, he had tested HIV positive and believed he was already carrying the Aids virus. He was already taking the anti-HIV drug ATZ. In 1995, Louganis, who by then had spoken openly about his homosexuality, revealed the story to the public for the first time.

The blood that had spilled into the pool, Louganis said, was so diluted as to be of no threat to anyone. However, O’Brien had wiped away the blood from his diver’s neck in an effort to prevent Chinese rivals gaining confidence, while Dr Jim Puffer had tended to the wound. Both later took HIV tests that proved negative.

The Chinese later asked what the secret of his success was. Louganis explained:

“You just follow your instincts. When you’re in the air you have something like a cat’s sense. You’re aware of where your body is going, and your peripheral vision tells you how high off the water you are…if you are diving well, you have all the time in the world to attend to details.” 

A dive from the 10m board takes less than 3 seconds. A dive from the 10m board takes less than 3 seconds: a diver free-falling at 32 feet per second to the water breaks the surface travelling at nearly 35 miles per hour. 

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