Evel Knievel has always evoked some very specific memories of my youth. Growing up in the 70s, every now and then we would tune into ABC’s famed Wide World Of Sports on Saturday afternoons to see the famed stuntman attempt some sort of feat – whether it be jumping a motorcycle over a number of cars or hurtling a rocket sled across a canyon. Sometime he would make it and sometimes he wouldn’t, but the man was showman enough to catapult himself into becoming an icon of the decade.
Channing Tatum is looking to bring that icon back to life and is currently in negotiations with Columbia Pictures to star in and produce a biopic covering the stuntman’s life. The Hollywood Reporter is saying that the project would be based on Stuart Baker’s 2008 biography Life of Evel: Evel Knievel which Tatum’s producing partner Reid Carolin would adapt.
During the height of his popularity, Knievel managed to merchandise himself out to a line of toys as well as numerous other products. He was also the subject of a previous biopic, 1971’s Evel Knievel which starred George Hamilton in the title role. I haven’t had a chance to see that film, but I did have the misfortune of seeing the truly awful Viva Knievel!, a 1977 movie in which the stuntman plays himself and goes up against Mexican drug smugglers. Knievel passed away in 2007 at the age of 69.
Here’s a look at Knievel’s first national television appearance, the one which launched his career.