It took 33 years, but Terry Fox has made it all the way to Hollywood.
On the anniversary of the day Fox started his Marathon of Hope by dipping his prosthetic leg in the Atlantic Ocean, his family and a California production company announced they’re hoping to bring his life story to the big screen.
Terry Fox: the Feature Film will go beyond the movie and TV efforts of the past and bring star power to his cause, with 100 percent of the film’s profits going to cancer research.
“We really need a real hero today, we don’t have them,” said producer Kelly Slattery. “When Americans think of heroes, they think about how much money an athlete has and how powerful they are … Terry Fox died with a nickel in his pocket and raised $22 million and gave his life. That’s a real hero. We need to get back to what charity really is.”
Slattery grew up in Toronto surrounded by images of Terry Fox. “We didn’t have crucifixes. We had Terry Fox on our walls. He’s definitely who we looked up to,” she said.
Her father, an Adidas executive, framed the letter he received from Terry asking for a shoe sponsorship. He spoke often of the young hero to his kids and collected all sorts of memorabilia — images that stayed with Slattery her whole life.
Generations of Canadians have been moved by the story of a quiet young man from British Columbia who hop-stepped halfway across the country on one leg to raise money for the disease that cut his run and his life short in 1981 at age 22.
Slattery, now a Los Angeles-based movie producer, wants to take that story global, bringing it to a new generation and reviving Fox’s dream of finding a cure.
Her company, Therapy Content, won accolades at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for Dave Grohl’s documentary Sound City, and is looking to build on that success with a non-profit feature film, budgeted at about $10 million.
“Our goal is to have this be the biggest philanthropic campaign of all time,” said the producer, who hopes to make $100 million for the Terry Fox Research Institute. “It sounds outlandish, but I’m with Terry Fox. I have big dreams.”
The film will do more than remind people of his story. Envisioning an actor such as Anton Yelchin (Like Crazy) playing the lead, Slattery wants to plunge into the little-known nitty-gritty details, like the days he ran through the snow and the nights he slept in a van with no heat.
She hopes to inspire millions of young people to start up Terry Fox runs across America.
“There is a power to Terry Fox and what he did: that subconscious message of greatness,” said Slattery.
Darrell Fox, who accompanied his brother for every step of the Marathon of Hope, is a big supporter of the project.
“I’m reminded of 1980, when I was hanging out with Terry in a stinky Ford van,” he said. After an event outside of Toronto, Terry was approached by a reporter who asked him what he hoped would come of his run.
“And with two words he said: ‘more money,’” remembered Darrell. “That’s a driver for us. We’re on a journey; we’re trying to finish the Marathon of Hope. We’ve certainly come a long way in eliminating the suffering that cancer causes, but it is a journey and there’s still more to accomplish.”