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Toronto 2010: Steve Nash, auteur (and the man to bring Pele to the big screen)?

September 11, 2010 |  9:23 pm

The independent film business has seen a few unusual entrants over last year -- Dave Matthews, anyone? -- particularly on the financing and distribution side. But there aren't too many pro sports stars who've gotten into the movie business. And certainly none that we know of who have tried to tap their inner Jean-Luc Godard.

But that's changing with the filmmaking ambition of one Steve Nash.

Already a mover and shaker on the commercial and viral-video scene with his Meathawk production company, the Phoenix Suns point guard is giving filmmaking a try.

Nash is at the Toronto International Film Festival with a documentary called "Into the Wind." The film, which is part of ESPN's 30 for 30 slate, will air this month on the network. Nash and his cousin/producing partner Ezra Holland directed the 51-minute featurette, an inspirational sports doc (and a pretty solid one at that), about the life and cultural impact of Terry Fox.

Fox was a Canadian athlete who lost a leg to cancer yet ran more than 3,000 miles across his native land in the spring and summer of 1980 to raise money for research on the disease.

"Terry had such an impact on my life, that when I was afforded the opportunity to pitch a story from the last 30 years, I couldn't get away from this one," Nash told 24 Frames in Toronto on Saturday. "And it had either been forgotten or never told to an American audience, so it was a perfect time to tell it."

There have been other attempts to dramatize Fox's life on screen -- HBO made a movie with Robert Duvall in the 1980s -- but Nash and Holland said they wanted to tell a story from a more first-person perspective, using Fox's journal entries in a voice-over. "We tried to get into his mind," Nash said. "His accomplishment was so incredible that sometimes you don't ask what he was thinking underneath it all." Holland added: "He had a very public persona as someone invincible. And yet in his is diaries he's very, very vulnerable."

Nash and Holland want to take on a full-length film next. They're developing, as producers, a documentary about soccer great Pele with director Bill Guttentag, the two-time Oscar winner and acclaimed documentarian. Guttentag has written a treatment for the film, and even though Nash said that "we're still miles away from knowing how to approach it," Pele's life "is a great story, and it's a great time to tell it, with the World Cup going to Brazil in a few years." 

Nash's pro basketball career might impinge just a little on his filmmaking one, but the All-Star and former MVP says he's finding ways to make the time. "During the season it's almost easier for me because I have a regimented schedule and I can pick times to work on it," he said. "During the summer I'm taking on so much that it's a little harder. But I feel like we've accomplished a fair bit so far with Meathawk and I want to continue to grow it." (We wouldn't, however, expect Phil Jackson to carry -- er, star in -- any of Nash's films.)

As for making the mental switch between the movie business and the basketball court, he said it's not as tricky as one might think. "To be honest, they're very similar," he said. "They're both collaborative, and they both take discipline and creativity. I would liken them more than contrast them."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Steve Nash. Credit: Getty Images

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