He had all the makings of an Olympic champion: talent, determination and an unwavering will to win. A fierce opponent—one of his pre-race rituals was to spew a mouthful of water into his competitor’s lane—he became one of Canada’s most prominent international swimming stars by the age of eighteen. He was also proudly patriotic, sporting a tattoo of the Canadian maple leaf on his chest.
Dubbed the “enfant terrible” of the Canadian team, the driven and dynamic swimmer was as well known for his out-of-pool explosiveness as for his three world records and four Olympic medals. Yet it was this fascinating combination that made the mercurial Victor Davis one of the most compelling and complex Canadian athletes of his era.
The remarkable life and legacy of Canadian Olympic gold medalist Victor Davis is remembered in VICTOR, a two-hour dramatic movie airing Monday, March 26 at 8 p.m. on CBC Television. Through flashbacks and flash-forwards, VICTOR focuses on Davis’ turbulent competitive swimming career in the early 1980’s through his tragic death in 1989 at 25 years of age.
Canadian actor and writer Mark Lutz (Power Play, Angel, Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy) wrote the screenplay, the first of his career, and stars as Victor Davis. Likening it to a “Rocky in the pool,” about the underdog who makes it against all odds, Lutz believes Davis’s story needed to be told. And Lutz certainly knows about swimming. A competitive swimmer in his youth, Lutz went to the Olympic trials but a shoulder injury ended his Olympic dreams.
His passion for the sport and admiration of Davis, a childhood hero, led to him penning the inspirational yet tragic story of the late Canadian Olympic swimming champion. Lutz spent years interviewing those who knew Davis best—his family, coaches and teammates—writing the screenplay, shopping it around on the condition that he play Davis, and finally, working himself into shape to play an athlete legendary for his Greek-god physique.
An all-star supporting cast includes Polly Shannon (Trudeau, Lie With Me, Men With Brooms) as Davis’ devoted girlfriend Donna Clavel; Ron Lea (This Is Wonderland, The Sentinel) as Victor’s coach Cliff Barry; Peter MacNeill (A History of Violence, Queer As Folk) as Davis’ father and Sasha Roiz (Jeff Ltd., Man of the Year) as Davis’s close friend and Olympic-champion teammate Alex Baumann.
VICTOR is the compelling story of a great Canadian hero—a working class kid who, through sheer determination, overcame both physical and psychological challenges to reach the ultimate pinnacle of his sport, becoming a World Record holder and an Olympic gold medal champion at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In November 1989, just a few months after retiring, Davis was struck by a hit-and-run driver outside a suburban Montreal nightclub. He died two days later but his spirit lived on in the six people who received his heart, both cornea, liver and kidneys.
Davis was named to the Order of Canada and voted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. In his memory, The Victor Davis Memorial Award was established to provide bursaries to needy Canadian swimmers, and more than 60 athletes have benefited since its creation.
Produced by Indian Grove Productions Ltd. in association with CBC Television and Global Television, VICTOR is directed by Jerry Ciccoritti (Trudeau, Shania: A Life in Eight Albums, Net Worth) and produced by Bernard Zukerman. VICTOR is Zukerman’s third sports themed film, including the critically acclaimed Net Worth, about the NHL’s early years and the player’s quest to create a Player’s Association, plus Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story, a biopic of the 16-year-old teen who was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario.