If Michael Keaton gets his way, his latest project about the rise of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc will be, as far as we know, the first movie about franchising. But McDonald's may have reason to try to stop the 'unflattering' movie from being made, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
To be called The Founder, Keaton's new movie will tell the story of how Kroc — a travelling milkshake machine salesman — created one of the biggest restaurant chains and most powerful brands in the world. Although Kroc didn't invent franchising, he certainly transformed it into its modern form, at the same time doing for fast food what Henry Ford did for the motor car.
So far, so good, but what McDonald's may object to is the way the story has been developed in the same vein as The Social Network, which "dramatized the infighting between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the various Harvard classmates who claimed he double-crossed them along the way", says the Reporter.
Scriptwriter Robert Siegel, who also wrote The Wrestler, is said to depict Ray Kroc as a salesman who sweet-talked the McDonald brothers, owners of a popular hamburger stand in California, into franchising their concept, then cheated them out of $200 million by reneging on an agreement to pay them 1.9% on every sale. "Until his death in 1984, [Kroc] pretended to have made up the name McDonald's himself," claims the Reporter.
There were persistent rumours that Kroc was also an alcoholic — before his death, he set up a charitable foundation supporting research into and treatment of alcoholism — but we're not sure if that will be dealt with in the film.
We're also not sure if he will be portrayed as the aggressive business mogul who was the subject of Mark Knopfler's 2004 song Boom, Like That, or whether his other side, that of listening to his franchisees and acting on their suggestions for new products (such as the Big Mac) and other improvements, will be brought out.
No matter how Kroc is portrayed, McDonald's clearly has bigger worries on its plate right now.
"Ray Kroc's story is compelling, so we're not surprised Hollywood wants to dramatise it for the big screen," the Reporter quoted McDonald's director of media relations, Lisa McComb, as saying. "The historical facts of his journey to success are in his autobiography and other non-fictional accounts of McDonald's."
The Founder will be directed by John Lee Hancock, the director of Saving Mr Banks, Snow White and the Huntsman, and the Academy Award-winning The Blindside, and will begin shooting later this year.
Article by Robin La Pere, No Ordinary Business and Franchise Consultants
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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