Photo by Peter Crooks
Tony La Russa has two World Series rings. Sugar Ray Leonard has an Olympic gold medal and five pro boxing titles. Now, the two sports legends have their eyes on a new prize: Hollywood gold.
La Russa recently formed a film production company based in Danville called Red Bird Cinema, with Danville financier John Loar (pictured, below on right, with La Russa and Leonard) and actor Kevin Pollak. Red Bird plans to produce a film about the life story of Leonard, who won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics and made boxing history by winning world titles in five different weight classes.
“My road to success has had lots of bumps and bruises along the way,” says Leonard, 51. “I’ve been approached about doing a movie about my life for years, but this is the team I want to have tell my story the right way.”
The screenplay for Leonard’s biopic is being crafted by Buzz Bissinger, the author of Friday Night Lights, a classic about football at a Texas high school which was adapted into a hit film and a critically adored TV series. Bissinger also wrote Three Nights in August, the 2005 best-seller about La Russa, which Red Bird Cinema is also developing as a feature. La Russa just signed a two-year extension to manage the St. Louis Cardinals, so he’s got plenty on his plate before cameras roll on his own life story.
“Ray’s story—both in and out of the ring—is so inspirational and compelling, it should make a great movie,” says La Russa. “I’m more excited about it than I am about Three Nights in August. I’m not sure how I’m going to come across in that one.”