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Sheene Biopic In Development

A feature-length biopic of the late Barry Sheene is set to go into production later this year and should hit cinemas some time in 2017.

A joint project between UK firm Deep Springs Pictures and Australia’s IO Films, the movie is based on the book Barry by former teammate and friend Steve Parrish and journalist and MotoGP commentator Nick Harris. While casting for the movie hasn’t started yet, there’s already a trailer on YouTube and a host of big names behind the project.

These include scriptwriters Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement, with credits including The Commitments and Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and production from Will Stoppard, son of playwright Tom Stoppard.

Parrish and Harris – both men who were there to see Sheene’s career at first hand – are consultants on the project, which promises to add a dose of accuracy and realism.

Will Stoppard said: “We are thrilled to have screenplay writers of Ian & Dick’s calibre. From the beginning it was clear they understood who Barry was and what he stood for. We knew they would deliver material that portrays the uncompromising larger than life character, coupled with the humour and drama that was never far away from Barry. At the same time they have their finger on the pulse of 1970s enabling them to make the most and capture this fascinating era as the backdrop to the movie.

“It’s a rush to be making a movie about Barry Sheene – bringing his story and legacy to the big screen. For me it all started growing up with a mum who was a doctor at a racetrack. I latched on to the thrill of speed early on, and nothing has changed.

“When Barry was thrown into the public eye after his Daytona crash I remember feeling a sense of empathy with this intrepid character and he became a childhood hero of mine. I was fascinated with him and the danger of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, it was a buzz.

“To have a British sporting icon who cheated death, did whatever it took to win, lived life to the full, and conquered the most dangerous sport in the world was inspiring. He was a superstar that transcended his sport, someone we all looked up to and lived our dreams through.

“When the project was presented to me I was immediately excited. I knew what the movie had to be – I was doing this film come what may. Making the movie will be fulfilling and we look forward to audiences experiencing what made this icon into a true legend.”

Unsurprisingly, the idea for the Sheene movie came to life on the heels of Ron Howard’s biopic of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Rush. Sheene’s first 500cc crown came in the same year as Hunt took the F1 championship and he remains the last Briton to take the title. His hard-living lifestyle, a trait shared with his friend Hunt, is still a defining cornerstone of the image of 1970s motorsport.

Moving to Australia on his retirement in the early 80s, Sheene went on to further fame as commentator and TV host. He died from cancer, aged just 52, in 2003.

The new movie is expected to cover the bulk of his top-level career, including the bitter on-track battles with Kenny Roberts and the bone-shattering crashes at Daytona in 1975 and Silverstone in 1982.