MGM announced news of the project Thursday, which tells the story of Smith and Carlos from their first meeting on the track team at San Jose State to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. As the two received medals for the 200 meter race (Smith the gold and Carlos the bronze, pictured above), they raised their fists in salute and silent protest during the American national anthem. The event caused widespread controversy at the time, and is still regarded as one of the most political moments in the history of the Olympics.
“Still incredibly powerful and relevant, I’m honored for the opportunity to bring Tommie and John’s riveting story to life; to portray the weight of the world these two giants had on their shoulders and the self-determination, courage and sacrifice it took for them to stand up for all of us,” Green said in a statement.
The filmmaker will direct from a screenplay by Billy Ray, who previously received an Academy Award nomination for penning “Captain Phillips.” Other notable credits include “Richard Jewell,” “Overlord,” “The Hunger Games,” “State of Play,” “Breach” and “Shattered Glass.” Ray is represented by CAA.
Green made his feature film debut with “Gun Hill Road,” which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. His second feature, “Premature,” debuted at Sundance in 2019, with Green going on to win the Independent Spirit “Someone to Watch” Award. Green is represented WME and Granderson Des Rochers.
MGM will distribute the film, which is produced by Participant, MACRO and Stacy Sherman. Carlos’ nephews, Airrion and Shaun McCoy, and DeLois Smith, the wife of Tommie Smith, are co-producers on the film.
“We are thrilled to have Rashaad Ernesto Green at the helm of this very special film,” said Michael De Luca, MGM Film Group Chairman, and Pam Abdy, MGM Film Group President, sharing their deep gratitude for Smith and Carlos and the filmmaking team for entrusting the studio with their story.
“Olympian Tommie Smith has said that he and fellow Olympian John Carlos ‘had to be seen because we couldn’t be heard,’” their statement continued. “The courage and selflessness of these two extraordinary men, who quite literally put their lives on the line to stand up for what was right and true, has stood as a testament to the essential need to speak truth to power.”
Added Participant CEO David Linde: “At a time when the right to peacefully protest remains under attack, it couldn’t be a more perfect opportunity to tell the story of these courageous men.”
On behalf of MACRO, founder and CEO Charles D. King noted that, “The moment when Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the podium and raised their fists created a ripple effect of change that resonates to this very day and now audiences worldwide will understand the true extent of their bravery.”