Frank Marshall eyes directing

Producer to helm doc on Right to Play and its founder

Producer Frank Marshall is making a rare foray into directing, conceiving and taking on the documentary "Right to Play" for ESPN Films.

The picture, which will be part of the cable network's 30 for 30 series, will examine Norwegian speed-skating great Johann Olav Koss and his Right to Play organization, which aims to bring sports to children in poverty-stricken and war-torn areas.

Koss won three gold medals at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, but after retiring decided that instead of taking it easy he would found the nonprofit organization and travel around the world spreading its gospel. Right to Play, which now has scores of employees and volunteers, works on continents ranging from Africa to Europe to South America organizing sporting events and providing the means for kids to play.

"Here's an incredibly accomplished athlete who's least known for his accomplishments after the Olympics, which include becoming one of the greatest ambassadors in sports history," Marshall said from the set of "The Last Airbender" outside Philadelphia. "What we're going to try to find is his drive and how it has changed the world."

Marshall has begun shooting in places such as Pakistan and plans to head soon to Africa to explore some of Koss' work there. Footage will include, among other things, a soccer game in the Middle East between Israeli and Palestinian clubs that are affiliated with Right to Play.

The documentary should be ready in 2010, Marshall said, with plans to also shoot at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next year.

A prolific producer behind hits like "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and franchises including the Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne series, Marshall occasionally has undertaken projects as a director. Perhaps best known for the 1990 thriller "Arachnophobia," he most recently helmed the Disney survival tale "Eight Below" in 2006.

"I love stories that are of ordinary people in extraordinary times. What we have (with Koss) is an extraordinary person in extraordinary times," Marshall said.

ESPN's ambitious 30 for 30 series pairs high-profile filmmakers with sports-related passion for hourlong documentaries. Spike Lee, Pete Berg, Barry Levinson and Barbara Kopple have all previously signed on for the series, which will debut in the fall.