If you bring up the name Terry Fox in conversation, most Canadians will recognize the name. Most Americans? Not so much.
But it's time they did, according to Kelly Slattery. The Therapy Content producer, working with the family of Terry Fox and the Terry Fox Foundation, announced that film development rights have been secured for Terry Fox: The Feature Film.
"We're going to be showcasing one of Canada's greatest creations…which is Terry Fox," Slattery told the Georgia Straight in an interview at a downtown Vancouver hotel.
She explained that her father was an Adidas executive who received a letter from Fox seeking sponsorship for running shoes for his 3,339-mile run across the nation. He framed the letter in his office, and began collecting items related to Fox.
"Terry Fox was a religion in our home," the Toronto-raised Slattery stated.
It was, in fact, 33 years ago today that the 21-year-old, B.C.–raised Fox dipped his artificial foot in the Atlantic Ocean near St. John's, Newfoundland to begin his cross-Canada journey. But after 143 days into his run, Fox died on June 28, 1981.
Although his legacy lives on through the Terry Fox Foundation, Slattery wants to bring Fox's story to a broader audience.
"We're doing it in America because Americans don't know who Terry Fox is," she said. "A film out of Hollywood has much better reach than a film made in Canada….Once they [Americans] know who Terry Fox is, we can have Terry Fox runs in America, thereby increasing donations tenfold."
Slattery said the film is in development and is slated for release in December 2014. However, they're launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the film. However, all proceeds from the film will go to cancer research.
"Our goal is to be in the black before we even get to camera," she said.
Previous screen versions of Fox's life have been TV movies: the 1983 HBO biopic The Terry Fox Story was broadcast on TV in the U.S. with a theatrical run in Canada, while the 1995 CTV movie Terry starred Shawn Ashmore. A 2010 ESPN documentary about Fox, Into the Wind, was directed by Ezra Holland and Steve Nash.
However, Slattery hopes to make the first feature film about Fox's story. She also hopes the film will illuminate all the numerous factors that contributed to who Fox became.
"What is the story within the story? Why did he do this? What made him want to do that? Who helped create the person who was able to do this? So I kind of see it as almost a kind of Stand By Me, and that it's a journey that they went on together. The Marathon of Hope wasn't just Terry. The Marathon of Hope was Darrell [Fox], it was Doug [Alward], it was Bill Vigars, and then of course all the other characters that came along the way….These characters intermingling created this amazing thing that happened. They helped bring out this character and hero in Terry."
Most of all, Slattery wants to show the man behind the hero mythology.
"He did such a heroic, amazing thing but the reason why he's a hero is because he was human. He doesn't have extra powers. He had less power because he had one leg. He also had two tumours in his lungs. He had cancer, while he was running this marathon every day, in his lungs. So showing that he's a hero because he's human and this is what made him human."