EXCLUSIVE: EverWonder Studio is teaming with John Skipper’s Meadowlark Media on its first project, a feature-length documentary examining the dynamic relationship between tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, which it will finance and co-produce.
The teams have also secured rights for a future scripted adaptation of the story, Deadline can exclusively reveal.
“I’m thrilled that this project is moving forward, and that we’ve found the right partners in EverWonder and Meadowlark,” stated Evert. “I’m looking forward to sharing our story with global audiences – not just with tennis fans but with anyone who appreciates an inspirational journey through rivalry and to mutual respect and friendship.”
Said Navratilova, “This film has been decades in the making, and EverWonder and Meadowlark are the right studios to finally take it from a concept to a reality. It was important to us to work with storytellers who will honor the true power of our lives and careers together and tell our story in the right way.”
With their as-yet-untitled doc, EverWonder and Meadowlark promise to shed new light on the relationship between Evert and Navratilova, including through never-before-seen footage. Their story underlines the importance of friendship when battling one of life’s greatest adversities. What starts as one of the great rivalries in sports history over time turns into an unbreakable bond of friendship and solidarity.
While Navratilova won more total matches and Grand Slams by the time both retired, the pair together dominated the women’s tennis scene from the 1970s through the ’80s. Among the more notable moments in their joint history was the French Open women’s doubles title that they teamed up to claim in 1975, their competition against one another in the 1985 French Open final, which is considered one of the greatest women’s tennis matches of all time, and Navratilova’s introduction of Evert to her second husband Andy Mill, with whom she had three children before divorcing in 2006. Evert was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1995, with Navratilova joining five years later. The duo’s story has previously been examined in the ESPN doc Unmatched, Johnette Howard’s book The Rivals, and elsewhere.
Executive producers on the forthcoming Evert-Navratilova doc include Jeff Zucker of RedBird IMI, Ian Orefice, John Skipper, Deirdre Fenton, Jon Wertheim, Mary Greenham (NewsPresenters Media) and Lawrence Frankopan (StarWing Sports).
“It’s an honor that after a very competitive process, Chris and Martina have chosen EverWonder as their storytelling partner along with Meadowlark Media,” said EverWonder Studio’s CEO, Orefice. “EverWonder was created to celebrate the world’s best stories and we’re thrilled to tell the tale of one of the greatest rivalries – and friendships – in sports history. Their journey has already inspired so many, and we know it will do the same for new audiences around the world.”
Remarked RedBird IMI CEO Zucker, “Chris and Martina’s story is exactly the type of project we launched EverWonder to tell – a never-before-seen look at one of the great friendships and rivalries of our time. I know this is the first of many powerful narratives EverWonder will bring to life, and I’m grateful to Chris and Martina for trusting us with their story.”
Added Meadlowlark Media’s Skipper, “Chris and Martina revolutionized the sport of women’s tennis. Their story has all the elements of a fascinating, inspiring documentary, and we are thrilled to bring it to the screen in partnership with EverWonder.”
It was just last month that Orefice launched the non-fiction content studio EverWonder, with investment from RedBird IMI, the joint venture led by former NBCUniversal and CNN boss Zucker. This came after Orefice left his position as president and COO of Time and Time Studios. Looking ahead, the company will focus on financing, producing and distributing documentary content for film and TV, with the potential for a global impact, brand extensions and the creation of new IP also being top of mind.
Founded by former ESPN chief Skipper and radio and podcast host Dan Le Batard in 2021, Meadowlark is perhaps best known for producing the soccer docuseries Good Rivals, on the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico national soccer teams, with Ocellated Media and Skydance Sports. The sports-focused company last year struck a first-look deal with Backstage Media for the development of audio and television content, having also been active under an earlier first-look deal with Apple.