What could be more Hollywood than the story of a beautiful skater whose Olympic dreams are nearly shattered by the henchmen of her fiercest rival? Not since that infamous Texas cheerleading mom tried to knock off the competition has a sports story generated as much drama as the attack on Nancy Kerrigan plotted by Tonya Harding‘s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. ”It’s got all the elements of a great movie — greed, a beautiful heroine, and proper villains,” says TV producer Steve Krantz (Judith Krantz’s Dazzle). ”We’ve got someone who’s [tried] to kill Sleeping Beauty.” Better still, Kerrigan’s story could end happily ever after at the Winter Olympics, in front of a worldwide audience numbering in the multimillions. No wonder network executives, movie- of- the-week producers, and TV advertisers are doing triple Axels to get a piece of the skater, who, observers say, will have to fall 10 times not to get a medal. Among the deals in the works:
Going for the Gold The willowy, Hepburnesque Kerrigan has received more than 35 offers from TV producers eager to film her ice-capade. ”Every network will make this movie,” says a TV producer. Sources put the price tag at an estimated $550,000 for the official story, and expect Kerrigan to have a movie deal — with either Fox or NBC, the current front-runners — in hand when she glides into Norway in February. The film could air as early as the May sweeps.
The authorized saga will probably downplay the Jan. 6 attack — Kerrigan’s camp, which includes her agent Jerry Solomon, wants the movie to focus instead on the sacrifices made by the skater’s hardworking dad, the struggles of her legally blind mom, and the 24-year-old athlete’s own battle with self-doubt. ”She’s so inspirational,” says producer David Permut (Three of Hearts), whose company is among those vying for the rights. ”There are a lot of compelling reasons to root for her.” Glossing over the attack has an added bonus: Producers can avoid legal dilemmas by not trying to sort out what role Harding may have played in the drama.
Harding, whose fate was still undecided at press time, has received no known TV offers, but Simon & Schuster ubereditor Judith Regan may be willing to let her tell her side of the story. ”It’s a story of our culture, our time; it’s about what people will do to win,” says Regan, who edited last year’s best-sellers from Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. ”But if she ends up being guilty, then she’s manipulative and vicious and I wouldn’t want to do a book with her.” That’s bad news for Harding’s conspiring husband. ”I wouldn’t do the Gillooly story,” says producer Howard Braunstein, who did NBC’s Amy Fisher movie. ”I’m not sure he’s sympathetic enough.”
Eye On The Prize Sharing in the spoils of the near tragedy is CBS. Shortly after the attack, the network sold out its remaining Olympics ad space (at an estimated $250,000 to $350,000 per 30-second spot), and it has reportedly recouped its $295 million investment in the Games. Ratings for the already- popular women’s figure-skating competition are expected to skyrocket. In addition to the technical competition on Feb. 23, the freestyle showdown on Feb. 25, and a skating exhibition on Feb. 26, there will be blade-to-blade coverage of Kerrigan’s time in Lillehammer. ”You’ll definitely see more of Kerrigan than you would have before,” says one CBS correspondent, although the network pulled promotional spots featuring Kerrigan and Harding to avoid criticism that it was capitalizing on the scandal.