The gravity-abused life of iconic stuntman Evel Knievel (1938-2007) was set to be chronicled by USA Network, which last year ordered a limited series, titled Evel, with Milo Ventimiglia tapped to star as the iconic daredevil. However, the world has obviously experienced significant changes since those plans were first spun, and it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Evel to wipe out from the cable channel’s production slate.
USA Network has scrapped Evel, according to THR. The project, which was picked up to series in September 2019, saw its New Mexico production—which was finishing location prep and was on the verge of rolling cameras—shut down this past March as the pandemic escalated. That move saw Ventimiglia and the rest of the cast—Sarah Gadon, David Krumholtz and Michael Chernus—sent home. Now, four months after that event, it seems that—rather than delaying production—the network has opted to cut its prospective losses completely. As the network’s statement reads:
“USA is incredibly disappointed to have had to make this decision, as we were so excited about this project and working with Milo, [producer Etan Frankel], and everyone involved.”
However, there is still a glimmer of hope for Evel, since studio Universal Content Productions will reportedly shop the series around to other networks and/or platforms. The tentative plan is to retain the existing cast in the event of a successful pickup; a notion made feasible by the continuing stasis of the industry, which will likely leave the actors without scheduling conflicts.
Milo Ventimiglia, who stars on NBC television drama This is Us (under the same NBCUniversal umbrella as USA Network), was to play the eponymous figure on Evel, which he was also to executive-produce. The series was to focus on a specific period in Knievel’s career, namely the preparatory build-up before his famously-failed jump (atop a steam powered rocket,) across Snake River Canyon—a heavily hyped event (that aired on closed-circuit television and even at theaters,) that took place west of Idaho’s Shoshone Falls, on September 8, 1974, at 3:36 p.m. MDT.
Plans for the limited series came after a 2015 spate of contemplated-but-nixed Evel Knievel biographical projects from heavies like Martin Scorsese and Darren Aronofsky. However, should the show find a home, don’t expect the stunts to dominate here, since USA was teasing Evel as a character study on the life of the man himself—at least when not plummeting to the ground in grim-reaper-defying grandeur. Indeed, USA described the series as “an exhilarating portrait of a complex man living the American dream, juggling meteoric celebrity and raising a family — and facing the very real probability that his next jump will kill him.”
The tentatively-shelved Evel role could present an intriguing challenge for Milo Ventimiglia. Besides his ongoing starring role on This is Us, he recently co-starred with Amanda Seyfried in dog-centric dramedy The Art of Racing in the Rain, having come off a co-starring role with Jennifer Lopez in rom-com Second Act, a role reprisal (from 2006’s Rocky Balboa) as Rocky’s son in Creed II, horror film Devil’s Gate, Adam Sandler Netflix offering Sandy Wexler and even reprised his early-career television role as former well-read delinquent Jess Mariano on Netflix revival Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Of course, genre fans know that Ventimiglia first came to prominence on NBC’s groundbreaking series, Heroes, which made a monumental impact in its 2006 arrival, only to stumble in subsequent seasons, eventually ending in 2010, save for a short-lived 2015 revival series, which he did not join.
Evel was to manifest under the creative purview of writer and executive producer Etan Frankel (Sorry for Your Loss, Shameless, Animal Kingdom). He was to be joined by executive producers McG, Mary Viola, and Steven Bello of Wonderland Sound & Vision, as well as Alex Gartner, Charles Roven, Topher Rhys-Lawrence of Atlas Entertainment and, as mentioned, star Ventimiglia. Additionally, Russ Cundiff was to co-executive produce on behalf of DiVide Pictures.
We will keep you updated here on the status of Evel in its pursuit of a new platform.