A Canadian living in Los Angeles for 11 years, Kelly Slattery has grown tired of the inevitable blank stares she receives when she brings up her all-time hero in conversation.
"It is astounding when they have no idea who Terry Fox is. It actually breaks my heart."
On Friday – the 33rd anniversary of the beginning of Fox's Marathon of Hope – Slattery officially launches a fundraising campaign to make a feature film about Fox, a made-in-Hollywood biopic she hopes will not only make Fox a household name everywhere, but also raise funds for cancer research.
"The world is remiss in not knowing who Terry Fox is, for sure. And we should share the story," Slattery says . "This is Canada's biggest hero."
Slattery, 41, comes by her admiration for Fox honestly. In her parents' Newmarket, Ont., home there hangs a shrine to Fox, including a letter the young man wrote seeking support in the form of running shoes from her father, then an executive with Adidas.
"It's really been drilled into our heads, what Terry Fox did," Slattery says . "Along with that letter, there's a collection of everything Terry Fox on our walls. So I always say he's our religion. We don't have crucifixes. We have Terry Fox on our walls."
A film producer whose projects include Dave Grohl's Sound City, which recently premiered at Sundance, and Transcendent Man, also a documentary, Slattery felt Fox's story – which has been told before in the made-for-TV format – could really use the Hollywood treatment.
"It's just a different approach in entertainment and somehow for whatever reason, American films speak more. They speak more internationally, they have a larger reach. And that's the goal. The goal is to show the world what a real hero is."
The proposed feature is in the very early stages. There is no financing secured, and Slattery is just getting board members into place – former NHL player Luc Robitaille has signed on. But perhaps most significantly, last fall, Slattery secured Fox's life rights, after a year-and-a-half of negotiating and talking with the Terry Fox Foundation and the Fox family, including a visit to Fox's mother Betty Fox's hospice shortly before her death in 2011.
"We are excited by the opportunities offered in a theatre release to share Terry's vision and values with a global audience," said Terry's brother Darrell Fox in a statement released by the production company.
Under the terms, the family will sign off on the script – Slattery's idea, she says. There is no writer or director attached at this point; two attempts at a script so far have not worked out. "It's a tough story to tell and not have it come across as a made-for-TV or a Disney [film]," she says.
If she can raise the funds, Slattery envisions a budget for her film of about $10-million, with principal photography beginning in about a year. All profits would go to research managed by the Terry Fox Research Institute.
A Kickstarter campaign launching Friday has set a goal of raising $250,000.