Race, out now, a biopic about African-American Jesse Owens’ incredible four-gold-medal-winning performance at the 1936 Olympic Games held in Hitler’s Germany.
James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens, track-and-field legend.
Rising star (and Toronto native) Stephan James, 22, whose previous credits include Selma and The Book of Negroes.
The phone call
“When my manager called and said, ‘Do you know who Jesse Owens is?’ I recognized the name, but I didn’t really understand his accomplishments. When I looked him up and read the script, I immediately fell in love and told my manager I had to play him.”
“I was in Atlanta shooting Selma, and every off day I’d train at Georgia Tech with the track-and-field coach. I had to learn to run fast, and I had to learn to run like Jesse, so I studied his form and how he looked when he did it.”
“Jesse’s daughters were instrumental; they helped fill in the gaps about the type of man their father was. I felt like I was part of their family.”
“Jesse was a humble man who didn’t realize the barriers he would break down going to Germany in the ’30s. He didn’t see colour; he just saw the love of the sport.”
“This is a timely film because it reminds us of how far we’ve come; it also helps us understand why we can’t afford to go backwards.”
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter