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Mark Lutz

Mark Lutz - "Victor" Tv Movie - He will play the lead role and pen the screenplay

Brendan Kelly

Tuesday 18 July 2006, by Webmaster

Mark Lutz had his own Olympic dream, now he gets to play a gold medalist Victor Davis subject of new bio-pic

Mark Lutz is a natural to be working on a film about swimmer Victor Davis.

The Montreal-born Lutz spent much of his youth swimming with the Pointe Claire Swim Club, and he dreamed of swimming for Canada at the Olympics. But his Olympics dreams came crashing down when Lutz blew out his shoulder in his early 20s. A couple of operations later, his competitive swimming career was over.

He turned to acting and has since carved out a niche for himself in the American TV biz, appearing in shows like Friends, ER and, most notably, the cult hit Angel, in which he played the half-human/half-demon Groosalugg.

Now Lutz is set to star in a CBC-TV bio-pic of Davis titled Victor, based on a screenplay penned by Lutz.

The Guelph-born Davis won a gold medal for the 200-metre breaststroke at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, setting a world record in the process. He also picked up two silver medals at those Games. He died in November 1989, two days after being struck by a car in a hit-and-run incident outside a bar in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. He was 25.

Bernard Zukerman, one of Canada’s leading TV-movie producers, is producing, and he said Lutz is the ideal man for the project.

"Lutz was a swimmer himself, almost an Olympic-calibre swimmer, and he wrote a fantastic screenplay," Zukerman said in a phone interview from Toronto. "We probably would have cast him anyway, even if he hadn’t written the screenplay. And it’s a beautiful screenplay. He’s come up with a really original take on the material."

Lutz had the idea for the project because he found the Davis story to be dramatic and he believed it would be a dream role to play.

"It’s an amazingly complex role," said Lutz, in a phone interview. "He was a guy with strong emotions, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who had run-ins with the law."

When Davis won his gold medal at the ’84 Games, it was by the largest margin in an Olympic breaststroke final in 60 years. But after winning a silver as part of a Canadian relay team at the ’88 Olympics, he retired "and then, literally months later, was killed in a hit-and-run."

"It’s a very compelling story," Lutz said, "and it’s a story that, based on my very unscientific survey, is one that not a lot of people know. It’s a great Canadian story that needs to be known."

Victor will be directed by Jerry Ciccoritti, a Toronto filmmaker whose lengthy list of small-screen credits includes Shania: A Life in Eight Albums, Lives of the Saints, The Death and Life of Nancy Eaton and the critically acclaimed 2002 Trudeau miniseries. Besides Lutz, the only actor cast so far is former Montrealer Ron Lea, who will play Cliff Barry, Davis’s longtime coach.

Producer Zukerman shares Lutz’s enthusiasm for the Davis story. "He swam what is still considered one of the greatest Olympic swim races of all time," Zukerman said. "So it has the heroic component to it. It has the tragedy of him dying at this young age under strange circumstances. You have this unique athlete who’s almost this kind of James Dean figure ... working-class, didn’t go to university, but had this incredible drive. It’s about ambition, drive, heroism."

Right now, for Lutz, it’s mostly about getting into tip-top shape to make the swimming scenes look realistic. As he notes, there will be no camera tricks, no stunt doubles. It really will be Lutz in the water swimming and he has to look like an Olympic champ. That’s why he’s been spending four hours a day at the pool for the past few months.

"In my profession, I have to stay in pretty good shape, and a lot of the roles that I’ve done have been very physical characters," he said. "But getting back into the pool is a different animal. It’s a whole new level of fitness."