We’re apparently not alone in thinking that the life and times of Derek Sanderson would be fodder for a good biopic. We got word Monday that actor/director/producer Edward Burns is working with “Akeelah and the Bee” writer/director Doug Atchison on a film about the flamboyant former Bruins player. (The film’s being produced by Tenth Green Productions along with Burns and Aaron Lubin’s company Marlboro Road Gang.)
Burns, who may be best known for his indie film “The Brothers McMullen,” will play Sanderson’s father, Harold Sanderson, and also coproduce. “Derek’s story is one of tragedy, triumph, and battle-tested bonds with his family and teammates,” Burns said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with Doug on this incredible project.”
The script, written by Atchison based on an earlier draft by Chris Pappas, focuses on the unlikely friendship between Sanderson and Bruins legend Bobby Orr, whom Sanderson credits in his autobiography, “Crossing the Line,” with saving his life. The role of Sanderson has not been cast.
“Derek Sanderson is known to generations of sports fans as a hugely talented cornerstone to the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup championships in the early 1970s,” Atchison said in a statement. “But his greatest achievement happened off the ice when [he] finally conquered his personal demons of drug and alcohol addiction. Bobby Orr helped him during that difficult journey and their friendship is at the heart of our story.”
Known as “Turk” to fans and teammates, Sanderson was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 1968 and won two Stanley Cup titles with the Bruins before signing a lucrative contract with the Philadelphia Blazers of the World Hockey Association. It was mostly downhill from there.
A man with a taste for the fast life, Sanderson at one point opened a nightclub in New York with Jets QB Joe Namath. It was one of many investments that did not work out for the native of Niagara Falls, Ontario. He struggled with alcoholism for many years, finally accepting help from his friend and ex-teammate Orr.
“[Atchison] is the perfect choice for a project like this,” Sanderson said in a statement. “He is unflinching in his retelling of my story and the message it provides. I’m living proof that you can hit rock bottom, climb back out and help others to do the same. ”