Way of the Cowboy: Dan Inosanto Biopic

According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Mark Gordon Company (MGC) who produced films such as Saving Private Ryan and the remake of Murder on the Orient Express, is developing a Dan Inosanto biopic film which is being called Way of the Cowboy. It will be the story of martial arts great, Dan Inosanto, student, teacher, and training partner to Jeet Kune Do master Bruce Lee. The script for the biopic was written by Jeremy Gough (A Forest of Mirrors) and picked up by The Mark Gordon Company who also bought the life story rights to Dan Inosanto.

Why is the entertainment industry deeply interested in Dan Inosanto? Because Dan Inosanto was the key instrument in a secret training program that led the Dallas Cowboys to win Super Bowl XII in 1978 against the Denver Broncos.

We read the story in Mac Engel’s article on The Star-Telegram.

Dan Inosanto was the first to train football players using martial arts techniques when he worked with the Dallas Cowboys. His students Tim Tackett, Larry Hartsell, Jerry Poteet and others would also go on to do so. Decades later Fox NFL Insider Jay Glazer would claim to be the first individual to train NFL players in mixed martial arts and UFC-style fighting, but others came before him.

Dan Inosanto had played football while growing up in Stockton, California, and one of his coaches was an elderly man who volunteered at his school. That man was Amos Alonzo Stagg, one of the pioneers in the development of American football.

In the late 1970s in Southern California, Dan Inosanto was working as a full time junior high teacher and only part-time as a martial arts instructor. It was during this time that Dan’s long-time friend from college, Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coach, Bob Ward, contacted him asking him to work with the Dallas Cowboys.

Dan Inosanto knew football and mixed-martial arts, but he was at a loss as to why his friend would want him to work with the Cowboys.

Here’s why!

The NFL had recently outlawed Rams defensive end Deacon Jones’ famous “head slap”. His head slap was effective, vicious and stunned the opponent, but it was also a surefire cause of concussions.

So now Bob Ward needed another “legal” technique to teach his players how to tear away from opponents. He found the technique in martial arts and it was his friend Dan Inosanto who could teach it to the players.

In 1977 Dan Inosanto came to the Cowboys’ training camp facility in Thousands Oaks, California. He was listed as “guest lecturer” because Bob Ward was known for his lectures.

Dan Inosanto was not immediately taken seriously. A slight, unassuming man, when he walked onto the field and was surrounded by giants football players in uniform, Ernie Stautner, Cowboys defensive coordinator, asked defensive lineman Randy White, “What the hell is this guy doing here?”

Not all the players bought into Inosanto’s technique, but men like Randy White, safety Cliff Harris, defensive back Charlie Waters and a handful of others took Dan  Inosanto’s techniques to heart. Randy White even credits Inosanto as vital to his career. Mike Ditka, the Cowboys assistant coach, was fascinated by Dan Inosanto.

Needless to say, the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl that year and Dan Inosanto made his mark in professional football. Later, he would work with the Raiders, Seahawks,  the Saints and others teams.

What Dan Inosanto taught the Cowboys was primarily sensitivity drills, stick drills and hand-to-hand technique, anything that “build strength, speed, stamina, skill, strategy, spirit, suppleness” and it would become the standard on every level for defensive linemen, offensive linemen, linebackers and some safeties.

So back to the Dan Inosanto biopic, Texan Jeremy Gough is a lifelong Cowboys fan and what better Dallas Cowboy story than the one that includes the life of Dan Inosanto.

So there you have it.

The Mark Gordon Company’s Mark Gordon ( Saving Private Ryan 1998) and Matt Jackson (Molly’s Game 2017) will produce the Dan Inosanto biopic called Way of the Cowboy along with Diana Lee Inosanto, (martial arts trainer for Melissa McCarthy for Spy 2015), and Tarik Heitmann (An American Terror (2014).

Sam Sleiman (An American Terror (2014), Ron Balicki (Fight Coordinator for Resident Evil: Apocalypse 2004) and Adam Goldworm (My Friend Dahmer 2017) will executive produce.

The Mark Gordon Company’s Joanne Lee will oversee the Dan Inosanto biopic, Way of the Cowboy, on behalf of the company.

Dan Inosanto: Jeet Kune Do Concepts