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WHIP IT

Welcome To The All-Girl Roller Derby Revolution
In the year 2000, roller derby was reborn. It happened in Austin, Texas, where a homegrown version of the sport -- grittier, sexier and punkier – won over fans with its refreshing mix of raw athleticism and playful rebellious spirit. First invented in the doldrums of Depression-Era America, the speedy, full-contact sport – in which skaters chase each other around an oval track, throwing elbows and body-checking one another – became a pop-culture spectacle in the 60s and 70s, then disappeared. But recently it started making a surprise comeback, as grass-roots leagues began springing up in cities across the U.S., thrilling audiences with their racy clothing, rock-n-roll attitudes and sheer competitive fervor. As newcomers took on sexy, sardonic "skate names” like Condaleeza Slice, Demi Gore and Anna Mosity, Janis Choplin, Eva Destruction and Judy Gloom, roller derby turned everyday girls into local superheroes.

One person caught up in the fledgling new roller derby craze was screenwriter Shauna Cross who, when she wasn't behind her writer's desk, was smashing with wild abandon into other skaters on the original Los Angeles Derby Dolls, founded in 2003 as the city's premier quad-skate roller derby league. Skating as her alter-ego Maggie Mayhem, Cross was so impressed by roller derby's liberating powers in her own life that she began writing about it. She envisioned a semi-autobiographical tale involving a girl who finds her true identity when she secretly tries out for a roller derby league, boldly going against everything the pageant-loving mother she so wants to please wants for her.

"I never would have thought I would write about roller derby, but I was really inspired by all these amazing women I skated with who are so strong and such incredible role models,” says Cross. "From the minute I started skating, I started thinking about this story, wondering what I would have done if I had discovered this when I was 17. Roller derby is a bit like becoming a superhero – you get a new name, a new persona and you to get to be this amazing person. I wondered what would I have risked to have that at 17? Would I have lied to my parents?”

Having grown up in Austin, she set the story in Texas, where roller derby was reignited in its modern, authentic form. The novel moved into high gear when Cross was working with her friend, Kirsten "Kiwi” Smith, on another project and Smith became increasingly curious about Cross's unconventional pastime. "It was always that I couldn't meet because of practice or I'd have these big bruises on my arm because of practice – and Kirsten started saying ‘you have got to write about this,'” recalls Cross.

The next thing Cross knew she was pitching WHIP IT to both publishers and production companies – and, in a fulfillment of a writer's wildest dreams, inking deals for a novel and a movie. As fun, fast and heartfelt as the sport itself, the book, published in 2007, won glowing reviews for its hybrid mix of tough action and adolescent searching– and made the story's journey to the screen a certainty.

The mix of WHIP IT's wry family comedy and raw roller derby setting drew a lot of attention in Hollywood and the rights were quickly picked up by executive producer Peter Douglas. At the same time, two filmmakers fell so madly in love with Bliss Cavendar's story it seemed they were destined to make it: Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen, partners at Flower Films who acquired the rights to Cross' book Whip It. Juvonen and Barrymore have produced ten films including DONNIE DARKO, FIFTY FIRST DATES, HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU and the CHARLIE'S ANGELS franchise. When Barrymore encountered WHIP IT, the usual process began of searching for the perfect director. Lists were compiled, reels were watched and meetings were taken, but Barrymore seemed to have a different personal con

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