Chris Benoit Movie Update: Conspiracy Theories Once Suggested, WWE Reaction

A biopic about the life and death of wrestler Chris Benoit is back in production after six years of inactivity, but controversial suggestions for the movie resulted in major changes, according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via Wrestling Inc.

Richard O’Sullivan, the original writer for the movie, Crossface, left the project due to the suggestion that the film includes several conspiracy theories. WON’s report, using knowledge of someone once involved with the movie, states that William Morris Endeavor (WME), suggested the movie included scenes to “open up” speculation that former WCW booker Kevin Sullivan was involved with the murders.

Sullivan was previously married to Nancy Toffoloni, aka Woman in WCW, during the 1990s. At Sullivan’s suggestion — t0 create the illusion his on-screen conflict with Benoit in 1997 was legitimate — Toffoloni and Benoit began traveling together, sharing hotel rooms, and being affectionate in public. They ultimately fell in love, causing Toffoloni and Sullivan’s marriage to fall apart while she and Benoit eventually married in 2000.

It was well documented that Sullivan blamed Benoit for breaking up his marriage. So, when over the course of a weekend in June, 2007, Benoit killed his son Daniel, Nancy, and himself, theories that Sullivan orchestrated the murders surfaced. One of the suggested scenes for the movie was Sullivan breaking into the Benoit home.

Also, WON’s report added that WME suggested deceased wrestler Johnny Grunge — who was Benoit’s neighbor before he died in 2006 — be included in the film. The idea was that Grunge, as Benoit’s best friend, be the one who discovered Eddie Guerrero’s body in his hotel room after a WrestleMania event at Madison Square Garden. While Grunge did help Benoit cope with the loss of his close friend Guerrero, his body was actually found by Eddie’s nephew, Chavo Guerrero, before a television taping in Minnesota in October, 2005.

The timing also wouldn’t match up, as Guerrero wrestled at WrestleMania 20 at MSG in 2004 — the last time WrestleMania was held at the venue. O’Sullivan’s refusal to go with these scenes ended with him leaving the project.

As Variety reported last month, German director Lexi Alexander will direct the Benoit biopic. She’s best known for directing Punisher: War Zone, and receiving an Academy Award nomination for her short film Johnny Flynton. Alexander has also directed episodes of the TV series Limitless, Supergirl, and Arrow.

“I was pretty certain I’d stay in TV rather than returning to the feature world, because the material just seems so much better in TV, especially in drama, but then Crossface came my way,” Alexander said. “A heartbreaking, true story about the dark side of wrestling. … I couldn’t say no to that.”

The movie will be produced be produced by Alex A. Ginzburg and Tony Lee of Let It Play. Ram Getz and Matthew Randazzo V will be the executive producers. The script will be written by Jake Goldberger and Sarah Coulter and be based on Randazzo’s book Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry.

The movie was originally set to be loosely based on Irv Muchnick’s book, Chris & Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide & Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, about the murders before negotiations fell apart.

Several actors have been rumored to play Benoit. Michael Hall was once suggested, but his representatives said he didn’t want to play a killer and be typecast. Kellen Lutz and Liam McIntyre were also discussed for the role several years ago. Rumors that Liev Schreiber would portray Benoit surfaced in 2013 but were debunked, via TMZ.

As for WWE, the company is reportedly not thrilled with the film being made. Their concern is that the movie will focus on drugs — possibly steroids — rather than Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive degenerative disease — that can only be detected postmortem — showing brain trauma in people who have had a severe blow or repeated blows to the head.

[Featured Image by Peter Kramer/Getty Images]