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By Mike Johnson on 2023-05-23 13:15:00

Shooting will commence next month on the feature film Queen of the Ring: Based on the True Story of Mildred "Millie Burke", an independent film written and directed by Ash Avildsen (No Cover, the in-development Genghis Khan and Paradise City, among other projects), which will tell the story of influential groundbreaking women's star Mildred Burke.

Arrow star Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak in the excellent DC series) has been cast to play Burke in the film.

The screenplay by Avildsen is based on the excellent Jeff Leen book of the same title on Burke's life, which was released back in 2009.

We are told the film is seeking to "capture the golden age of wrestling" to present an empowering story of how Burke endured abuse and heartbreak en route to changing the rules of how women were seen and their ability to pursue athletic dreams.

The plot of the film - "The true story of the tough, gutsy Mildred Burke, the first world famous female pro wrestler and million dollar athlete, who becomes a champion of a growing entertainment franchise in the 1930s-1950s.  Married to business partner BILLY WOLFE, the brilliant but vicious entrepreneur who pioneered women wrestlers, Mildred endured his infidelity and physical abuse despite the rise of her own power until she couldn't take it any more. With courage, panache and a loyal following, Mildred challenged the all-male hierarchy of the wrestling world as she became the first woman to headline over men."

WWE's Charlotte Flair has been cast as June Byers, who was a former Women's World Champion for numerous promotions, and a major rival for Burke.

Josh Lucas will be playing Billy Wolfe.  Lucas is well known for roles in a number of feature films including The Hulk, The Forever Purge, American Pycho and tons of other projects.  Wolfe, as some will know, was a major promoter of women's wrestling in that time period and not a likable personality, in the least, as he exploited the women he promoted.  He was also the former husband of Burke.

Other confirmed professional wrestling personalities of the time period set for the film who will be featured include:

-Leona "Babe" Gordon, who Burke defeated for the Women's World Championship.  Actress Marie Avgeropoulos (The 100) will be portaying Gordon.  She has also appeared in the Steve Austin film Hunt To Kill.

-Clara Mortenson, a star from the 1930s and 40s who later moved into the Hollywood world as an actor.  WWE's Liv Morgan is slated to play her.  There is no word whether her recent shoulder injury will prevent her from doing the film.

-Gladys "Kill em" Gillem and "Alabama Bombshell" Nell Stewart, among others, are also featured in the film, but who is playing them we are not currently able to confirm.

-WWE Hall of Famer Mae Young, described in casting breakdowns as "white, gay, athletic, tough, smart, loyal, confident ,a sexy tomboy whose career included playing football, softball and wrestling, with wrestling winning out; as Mae says when she first meets Billy Wolfe, "I fight boys and kiss girls." Mae becomes one of Billy's star performers on his women's wrestling team and is very savvy and fierce about her career. Mae Young grows to dislike Billy Wolfe and is overjoyed when she manages to beat him at poker one memorable night. Mae Young cares about the other women in Billy's stable, and does everything in her power, to no avail, to stop a brain-injured [spoiler] from going out into the ring with a vicious adversary."  We have not been able to confirm who is portraying Young, who will be shown in the 20s/30s.

The film is slated to commence shooting for six weeks in Kentucky this June and is said to be budgeted in the $5 million area, so it's closer to an independent film than a studio production. 

A number of these personalities were featured years ago in the excellent Ruth Leitman women's wrestling documentary Lipstick & Dynamite.


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