Frank Marshall is one of the smartest and successful producers in Hollywood. From all of the “Indiana Jones” movies to “Back to the Future” and dozens more titles, Marshall is at the top of Hollywood’s hierarchy–and is a great guy. He was a big fan of Lance Armstrong, too, so he decided to produce Alex Gibney’s documentary about Armstrong’s 2009 comeback race for the Tour de France.
But as revelations about Armstrong started to escalate, Marshall and Gibney had to deal with reality. They wound up making “The Armstrong Lie” twice so it included the unrepentant liar’s admission on “Oprah” and all the other mishegos that led to Armstrong’s unraveling and downfall.
Last night we saw “The Armstrong Lie” at a special screening hosted by Sports Illustrated’s former chief Terry McDonell, as well Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. Among the guests were David Chase (The Sopranos, Not Fade Away) with his wife, as well as Gibney, co-producer Matthew Tolmach, and cycling whistle blower Betsy Andreu.
You think you know all about Lance Armstrong. But you don’t until you see this movie. And even there are questions. We talked a lot about whether he is a sociopath without a conscience. The three men agreed: labeling him with a mental disease lets him off the hook. He’s just a liar who thinks he did nothing wrong.
Marshall: “I drank the Kool Aid. We all went to Mont Ventoux in France in 2009.” That’s where Armstrong staged a miraculous comeback after a terrible race. It turned out later he was doping so he’d make at least third place. “I haven’t talked to him,” said Marshall, “but I’m sure he thinks we’re still friends.”
The whole Marshall-Gibney team started the project as fans. That they had to re-evaluate everything about their film is mind-blowing. But then it became a search for the truth.
Meantime, Armstrong has not seen the film, which opens Friday November 8th. “We’ve offered,” said Tolmach.