Jesse Owens biopic Race sprints to the box-office with early release

Race, the new Jesse Owens biopic from Focus Features, is being fast-tracked, creating perhaps the easiest play on words in the history of entertainment news. Instead of its scheduled April 8, 2016 release, Race will reportedly come out of the blocks on February 19, 2016.

The film’s one-word title carries a double meaning that is perfectly appropriate for the story of the former track star and cultural hero Jesse Owens. A four-time gold medalist at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Owens single-handedly undermined Adolph Hitler’s narrative of Aryan racial superiority by proving that a man of African descent (a race Hitler dismissed as inferior) was in fact the world’s premier track-and-field athlete.

Stephen Hopkins (24, The Ghost and the Darkness) will helm the film and Stephan James (Selma) will play the title role.

The exact reasoning behind the early release isn’t yet clear, but the film received strong test scores at an advanced screening and may be trying to distance itself from the two other Owens biopics in the pipeline.

One of the projects belonged to Relativity Media, with Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) attached to play Owens, but after the company filed bankruptcy, producers were forced to look elsewhere, placing the project in limbo. The other is a property of Disney and is called Triumph.

Also starring in Race are Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones), William Hurt (Captain America: Civil War), Jeremy Irons (The Lion King), and Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses). A portion of the film was shot on location at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the very place where Owens struck a symbolic blow against Nazi Germany and against racial inequality in his own country.

While we don’t have a trailer or promo material for the film yet, you can enjoy some footage of Owens races and a bit of historical background on the track star in the video embedded above.