June 10, 2009 / 4:01 AM / 10 years ago

Skating champ Koss subject of ESPN docu

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - One of the documentaries in ESPN Films’ “30 for 30” series will profile 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.

Frank Marshall, the prolific producer behind such hits as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and the Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne franchises, is making a rare foray into directing with “Right to Play.”

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 has scores of employees and volunteers, works in Africa, Europe and 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 adventure fantasy “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. The film will include footage of 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, said Marshall, who plans to shoot at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next year.

Marshall occasionally has undertaken projects as a director and is perhaps best known for the 1990 thriller “Arachnophobia.” His most recent helming work was on the 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 “30 for 30” is a series of hourlong documentaries by high-profile filmmakers on sports figures and events from the past 30 years. Spike Lee, Peter Berg, Barry Levinson and Barbara Kopple previously signed on for the series, which will debut on the cable network in the fall.

Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters

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