BBC Films is on a runner's high

Preps big-screen take on Steve Ovett-Sebastian Coe rivalry

LONDON -- BBC Films, the pubcaster's stand-alone filmmaking unit, is staring into the middle distance, developing a movie centered on the Olympic rivalry of British runners Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe.

The two athletes went head-to-head at both the Moscow and Los Angeles Olympics and dominated the sports headlines, racing against each other in major competitions for years.

BBC Films is teaming with U.K. production banner AL Films for the project.

Joanna Anderson and Vicky Licorish of AL Films, the producers behind BBC 1's recent TV drama "Small Island," have signed up William Davies ("Flushed Away") to write the screenplay.

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AL Films optioned the account of the athletic rivalry portrayed in "The Perfect Distance," by sports journalist Pat Butcher. The author secured unprecedented access to Coe and Ovett, as well as those closest to them.

The movie is expected to be released prior to the London 2012 Olympics.

Coe and Ovett had contrasting personalities, which elevated the athletic rivalry for most armchair sports fans.

"You were either an Ovett person or a Coe person," Licorish said, "and that's what makes it such a great character piece as well."