ESPN Films’ Latest 30 for 30 “The American Gladiators Documentary” About Reality Competition Series Premieres May 30 & 31

ESPN Films

ESPN Films’ Latest 30 for 30 “The American Gladiators Documentary” About Reality Competition Series Premieres May 30 & 31

Directed by Ben Berman, co-directed by Kirk Johnson; Film will be available on ESPN+ immediately after its debut

“ESPN will debut the next installment in the Peabody and Emmy award-winning 30 for 30 series, “The American Gladiators Documentary,” a two-part film directed by Ben Berman (“The Amazing Johnathan Documentary”), Tuesday, May 30, at 8:30p.m. ET and Wednesday, May 31, at 9p.m. ET. The film takes an unconventional approach to the epic tale of the famed reality-competition show. What begins as a traditional sports documentary soon gives way to bigger themes of greed, divergent narratives, and ultimately questions how history itself is written. The film, also executive produced by VICE Studios, will be made available on ESPN+ immediately after its premiere, along with the rest of the 30 for 30 library. Trailer: https://youtu.be/PLtCV985X1M

From 1989 to 1996, American Gladiators was one of the most popular syndicated programs in television, a competition show that predated the reality TV era but used many of the same techniques to attract viewers. Every week, “amateur” contestants would go up against a cast of “professional” gladiators in a range of physical competitions, setting up David versus Goliath matchups that were popular with big television audiences but also earned considerable criticism for being “crash TV”. The show’s cast and crew look back on it all, with their memories complicated by regret over what it did to many of the gladiators’ lives. And as the behind-the-scenes story of the series is told, from the beginning of the film, the central, most compelling character of the story is clear: Johnny Ferraro, the creator of American Gladiators, a former Elvis impersonator from Erie, PA who came to Hollywood with a dream of putting the show on screen and ended up with a singular success.

“We’re very excited to finally get this story out into the world, and you can trust that it’ll take you to some weird places,” said Berman. “Come for the 90’s nostalgia, but stay for the Elvis impersonators, the burps, the mental torment, the murder plots, aliens, and of course the undeniable atrocity of America’s dark history. And sports. It’s got some sports too.”

The film features original interviews with Johnny Ferraro, Deron McBee (‘Malibu’), Michael Horton (‘Gemini’), Lynn ‘Red’ Williams (‘Sabre’), the late William Billy Smith (‘Thunder’) and Salina Bartunek (‘Elektra’). The documentary is executive produced by ESPN Films and VICE Studios and produced by Ben Berman, Kirk Johnson, Russell Wayne Groves, Danny Gabai and Andrew Freston. Advance press screeners, additional information, including film clips and director statements and bios, are available upon request. Follow 30 for 30 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About ESPN Films
ESPN Films has been an industry leader in documentary filmmaking since its inception in March 2008, producing more than 100 documentaries that have showcased some of the most compelling stories in sports. The high quality of storytelling, highlighted by the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 series and the Academy-Award winning documentary “O.J.: Made in America,” has led to record viewership as well as multiple honors and critical acclaim. Additional projects from ESPN Films over the years have included 30 for 30 Shorts, Nine for IX, SEC Storied and Emmy award-winning docu-series “The Last Dance.” ESPN+ is the exclusive home for the entire 30 for 30 library.

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Isabelle Lopez

Based in New York City, Isabelle Lopez is a Communications Associate Director for ESPN Films and Original Content. Her projects include the critically-acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series and The ESPYS, among others.
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