Hollywood Plans Broadway Revival: Jake Gyllenhaal to Star as Joe Namath

Angel NavedoSenior Writer IJuly 27, 2009

There comes a time in every icon's life where the rights to his name and likeness are licensed for the purposes of a major motion picture. For "Broadway" Joe Namath, that time is now.

Initially rumored nearly two years ago, a recent update to Jake Gyllenhaal's IMDb filmography is finally confirming him as the actor chosen to portray the New York Jets' legendary quarterback.

The film is expected to follow Namath's life as one of the game's first true stars while transcending the sport to become the most recognizable face of American football.

Adapting Broadway Joe's story to the big screen will be David Hollander, most recently known for his work on A&E's critically acclaimed drama The Cleaner. Mad Chance and Andrew Lazar will handle the production end of the film.

It's unknown where Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Namath will begin, especially given Joe Willie's numerous exploits in the early stages of his career. However, there are at least two logical starting points to properly introduce him to wider audiences.

The first of possible introductions could focus upon Namath's 1964 National Championship with the Alabama Crimson Tide under celebrated head coach Bear Bryant.

If Hollander chooses to begin Namath's story after his collegiate career, then he could detail Broadway's decision to rebuff the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals and sign with Sonny Werblin and the New York Jets with the less-popular AFL for a then-staggering $427,000.

As the first American football player to find a home under the media spotlight, Namath's story should be entertaining enough to captivate any audiences outside of Jets fans. He charismatically pioneered the football player bravado that's all too familiar today.

But the film has to be done right. Gyllenhaal's resemblance to the illustrious quarterback cannot be the driving force behind capturing Namath's essence for modern day movie watchers.

A Joe Namath film has to do more than paint a picture of the league's first superstar quarterback.

For the sake and integrity of history, the New York Jets players and coaches surrounding Namath must be honored properly.

Everyone from Johnny Sample to Don Maynard, Weeb Ewbank to George Sauer, and Matt Snell to Emerson Boozer must be recognized as personalities who were critical to Namath's on-field success.

Once his supporting cast is given their due and proper, then the tone of the film must be more than a contrived, inspirational sports story. Fans of the game have been spoon-fed too many of those in recent years.

While 2006's We Are Marshall and 2008's The Express were tolerable films, such glossy looks into historic football failed when trying to capture the brutal nature of their respective eras.

Outside of 2004's Friday Night Lights and portions of 1999's Any Given Sunday, football scenes employ too much slow motion as the primary tactic for building on-field drama. Those two films managed to bring the bone-crunching grittiness of the gridiron to life. 

If Namath redefined how America viewed professional football players, then it's only natural for a film about his life to redefine the yawn-inducing stigma surrounding athletic biopics.

Most importantly—and it doesn't matter how it's done—Mr. Hollander must find a way to incorporate Namath's Noxzema commercial with the late Farrah Fawcett into the story. 

If everyone involved in this film wants a chance to thank the Academy, this scene better be in the can.