A former sportswriter for the Houston Chronicle, John Lopez co-authored “Landing on my Feet, A Diary of Dreams” with Olympic champion Kerri Strug.
The book turned biopic tells the story of Strug’s experience defeating the odds to help bring home the gold medal in gymnastics to Team USA for the first time in 1996. Actress and filmmaker Olivia Wilde is set to direct the biopic, according to Lopez.
About the news of the film adaptation, Lopez said, “It’s pretty exciting. It was hard to keep it under wraps for about a year. That’s how long they’ve been working on it and talking about it. But it’s official now.” Lopez said that he is specifically excited that Wilde will be directing the film because “she is kind of one of the hottest directors right now after her last movie [“Booksmart”] did so well.”
According to Lopez, the process began a year ago by receiving an email that he originally thought was a scam. “I got an email from a production company in London,” Lopez explained, “and they said somebody had picked up the book and read it and said this could be a great movie. They got interested in it that way. At first, I thought it was spam.”
Lopez shared that he responded to the email anyway and about a month later received more information and details about what they wanted to do. After not hearing from them for another six months, Lopez said that he got word that the production company “had some things lined up and things were going to start moving a little quicker.”
In December 2019, Lopez said he found out there was a scriptwriter on board, then the project was publicly announced during the Berlin Film Festival in February.
According to Lopez, the overarching story goes back to 1990 when he was a columnist for the Houston Chronicle with an area of expertise in the Olympics. “I really took a liking to Kerri and some of the other girls on the original team in 1992,” Lopez said. “I did a bunch of stories on them and I got to know Kerri and her parents pretty well. In 1992 they were really good.”
During the ’92 Olympic games, Strug missed making it to the finals by less than a tenth of a point. According to Lopez, Strug was also one of the few teammates of “The Magnificent Seven”’ who did not have an agent. During the final rotation vault event in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Ga., Strug under-rotated the landing of her first attempt, causing her to injure her ankle. Despite the injury, Strug made a second attempt which garnished enough points to secure the gold for team USA.
According to Lopez, the next day he was summoned by the family for a talk. “I called the number back and it was [Strug’s] mother,” Lopez explained. “She said everybody was trying to get a piece of Kerri for news and agents. She asked if I could help them.”
Lopez said he connected them with Leigh Steinberg as a favor to the family. “A month or two later,” Lopez continued, “I got a phone call from Leigh saying everything was going great and they even have a book deal.”
Lopez shared that the family agreed to the book deal under the terms of having Lopez co-author it with Strug. The book was released in 1997 and quickly became popular.
According to Lopez, his involvement in the adaptation is not fully determined. “I’m going to be, at some point, in the circle, but not really for writing the script. I might be over there when they are filming for some of the case-study stuff.”
Lopez said he is excited as co-author about the book becoming a biopic, but that he is most happy for Strug and the light it is shining on her success. “I couldn’t be happier for Kerri,” Lopez said. “It’s exciting and it’s going to be great to see it on the big screen.”
Currently, Lopez is host of “In the Loop” on Sports Radio 610 which airs weekdays between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.