ESPN Films today announced several new 30 for 30 projects including documentaries on the ’85 Chicago Bears and the Duke lacrosse scandal, and the group’s first-ever miniseries event, “OJ: Made in America.” The third volume of the award-winning and critically acclaimed 30 for 30series will continue with the premiere of “The ‘85 Bears” on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 9 p.m. ET, followed by “Fantastic Lies” on Sunday, March 13, at 9 p.m. ET, both on ESPN. “OJ: Made in America” will debut in June.
“30 for 30 strives to be the gold standard of sports storytelling and continues to deliver thought-provoking documentaries that give viewers a unique point of view into a particular story,” said Connor Schell, senior vice president, ESPN Films and Original Content. “The projects coming in 2016 showcase some of our most ambitious work to date and we’re proud to work with this diverse group of incredible filmmakers who have again raised the bar when it comes to high quality storytelling.”
“The ’85 Bears,” directed by Emmy Award winner Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five”) and executive produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley, will look at perhaps the most famous football team of all-time – the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears – on the 30th anniversary of their epic triumph. The birth of Buddy Ryan’s 46 Defense, the sweet-revenge victory over the 49ers, the loss to the Dolphins that ruined their perfect season and the “Super Bowl Shuffle” that was filmed the day after, are all topics explored in this film about a group of misfits who became the toast of football.
“Fantastic Lies” will return to the night of March 13, 2006, when Duke University lacrosse players threw a team party that ended up changing lives, ruining careers, tarnishing a university’s reputation and even jeopardizing the future of the sport at the school. The film, from acclaimed director Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”), will premiere on the 10th anniversary of the party that ignited what became a national firestorm and resulted in a highly-charged legal investigation. Usually confined to the sports section, lacrosse suddenly appeared on the front pages of newspapers because of the lurid details of the case and the hot buttons that it pushed: sex, race, class, violence.
“Our first two films of the year highlight the diversity of topics that we seek with the 30 for 30series,” says John Dahl, ESPN Films Vice President and Executive Producer. “The Bears film offers a fresh yet nostalgic look at one of the most iconic teams in NFL history while the hard-hitting “Fantastic Lies” goes far beyond the playing field with an examination of how multiple factors led to a miscarriage of justice.”
Another 30 for 30 film premiering in April will look back on the electrifying Orlando Magic of the mid-90s, directed by Erin Leyden (“The 99ers”) and Gentry Kirby and executive produced by Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal. Coming this summer, directors Judd Apatow (“Trainwreck,” “This Is 40”) and Michael Bonfiglio (“You Don’t Know Bo”) will explore the connection between the lives and careers of former New York Mets superstars Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden (executive produced by Radical Media’s Dave O’Connor and Justin Wilkes).
Also this year, ESPN Films will debut the group’s most ambitious project to date, “OJ: Made in America.” The five-part documentary is a miniseries event and the first episodic documentary by ESPN Films, starting a new chapter for the 30 for 30 brand. Directed by Peabody and Emmy winner Ezra Edelman, “OJ: Made in America” examines the history of race over the last several decades through the lens of OJ Simpson’s rise and fall.
It is perhaps the defining cultural tale of 20th-century America, one that centers around two of our country’s greatest fixations: race and celebrity. “OJ: Made in America” will explore these themes in tracing a personal journey, from how Orenthal James Simpson first became a football star, to why the country fell in love with him off the field, to his being accused of murdering his ex-wife and his subsequent acquittal and why he is now sitting in jail 20 years later for another crime. This 10-hour epic will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22 and will debut on television in five parts in June.
Schell said, “’OJ: Made in America’ is unlike anything ESPN Films has done before and Ezra’s phenomenal work has taken one man’s story and, through it, explored the topics of celebrity, sports, police brutality, race relations and domestic violence.”