A writer and several producers have teamed up to bring tennis legend and philanthropist Arthur Ashe’s incredible story to the big screen.
Krystin Ver Linden and producers Russell Hollander, John Schoenfelder and Russell Ackerman announced their collaboration this week, and Deadline reports that the proposed biopic “follows not only the sporting story of the tennis icon who defied all odds by becoming the first African-American to be selected for the U.S. Davis Cup during the civil rights movement, but also focuses on his emotional courage and bravery in terms of his humanitarian work and his choice to reveal to the world his struggle with AIDS.”
Ashe was raised by his father in Richmond, Va., during the 1940s after his mother died from childbirth complications at age 27. He moved to St. Louis as a senior in high school so that he could compete in tennis in a less-segregated environment, and he became the first African American to win the National Junior Indoor tennis title. Ashe was awarded a tennis scholarship to UCLA in 1963, and that same year, he became the first black player ever selected for the U.S. Davis Cup team.
Ashe remains the only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open or the Australian Open. He also led the United States to victory for three consecutive years (1968-70) in the Davis Cup.
Ashe publicly announced his HIV infection in 1992 (contracted via a blood transfusion), then spent the last year of his life working to educate and broaden public awareness of HIV and AIDS. Ashe founded what was to become the Arthur Ashe Endowment for the Defeat of AIDS in 1992 and died of complications from the virus in 1993 at the age of 49.
ESPN’s ESPY Awards annually present the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to individuals whose actions “transcend sports.” The main stadium for the U.S. Open in Queens, N.Y., is named after Ashe, winner of the inaugural U.S. Open in 1968.
Ashe currently has no studio attached, but the production team is reportedly shopping the script around town.