‘The Armstrong Lie’ is not the film it was originally intended to be.
Director Alex Gibney was hired four years ago to make a documentary about Lance Armstrong’s cycling comeback.
The project was shelved after the athlete’s doping scandal erupted only to be re-opened after Armstrong confessed on the Oprah Winfrey show in January.
Gibney explained how the film evolved: “I always thought I was making a film about will – the will to win. And I think in Lance Armstrong’s case it was also inspirational because the will to win was tied in to actual survival; I mean, the will to win over cancer. So, what a story, but I suspected that when somebody has that much will, there’s a darker side to that always. I just thought the darker side would be a smaller part than the more inspirational side. As it turned out, it kind of flipped.”
Armstrong had won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005. But in 2012 he had those titles taken away and was barred from competitive cycling for life for doping offences.
Gibney said the morale of the film goes far beyond its central character: “One of the things we know from this story, and it’s not just Lance, but Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, they all told lies and it’s very hard for athletes to reckon with the idea that they’re telling a lie when they take performance enhancing drugs, because they don’t want to accept that they didn’t win purely because of their own physical exertion. Yeah, there’s a context here, which is that doping in sport, and particularly cycling, is a problem.”
Showing out of competition at the Venice Film Festival, ‘The Armstrong Lie’ is just the first in a run of movies about the disgraced cyclist, with JJ Abrams, Jay Roach and Steven Frears reportedly working on projects.