To the great masses, the name Nolan Bushnell means nothing. To a video game geek or ’70s/’80s pop culture historian, the name has the same weight as Babe Ruth or Neil Armstong.
Bushnell was a pioneer who founded Atari, helped create Pong, employed Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and lost out on the chance to be in on the first stages of Apple Computer. (OK, maybe not such a pioneer.) Forced out of Atari before the 2600 home console became a major success, Bushnell got back on his feet with another eventual ’80s mainstay: Chuck E. Cheese.
Writers Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman pitched a Bushnell biopic called Atari to Paramount, and the studio nabbed it with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star and produce through his own Appian Way.
I like the idea, mostly because as the early silicon wars moved from basements and garages to boardrooms a lot of great stories were made. (Most were promptly lost along the way, as publishers refused to credit game designers.) But I don’t actually expect to see this film with DiCaprio starring. It might happen, but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for this pakage to hit any screen near you.
UPDATE: Nolan Bushnell loves the idea. In a conversation with game blog MTV Multiplayer, Bushnell spoke about his impression of Atari’s place in business history and what his story means in the long run. With respect to the pitch by Hecker and Sherman, he said, “I felt that these guy [sic] got it in a very, very real way and [knew] what Atari stood for.”
And as you’d expect, he’s got no problem with Leo using his name. “I’m very, very thrilled and honored that would be the case.”