The character of David Stohler (played by Dennis Christoper in the film), was loosely based on a real person. Dave Blase grew up in Speedway, Indiana, and he was a passionate bicyclist and Italian opera aficionado.
He met Steve Tesich, a fellow fraternity brother at Phi Kappa Psi, and together the two trained for the Little 500. They won the race in 1962. Steve Tesich later wrote the screenplay that became Breaking Away. The name David Stohler is a combination of two names, Dave Blase, the opera-signing bicyclist, and Bob Stohler, the Phi Kappa Psi's bicycling team manager at the time that Steve Tesich and Dave Blase were teammates.
At the 1979 Academy Awards, Steve Tesich won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. The movie was nominated for Best Director (Peter Yates, who also directed Steve McQueen in Bullitt), Best Supporting Actress (Barbara Barrie, who played Dennis Christopher's mother), and Best Original Score.
The four relatively unknown actors who played the leads in the film were Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid (and yes, he's still hot but he is really hot in this film), Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley. Jackie Earle Haley was 17 at the time they filmed Breaking Away in 1978.
At the time of Breaking Away, ironically enough, Jackie Earle Haley was the only actor with some film experience, having performed in three of the Bad News Bears films. He kind of disappeared for many years. He had a tiny cameo in Pretty Woman, as a guy yelling through a bullhorn.
Jackie Earle Haley finally got his chance again a few years ago, in the Kate Winslet film, Little Children. And his most recent film work was in The Watchmen, playing Rorsharck. I really admire people who hang in there and finally get to enjoy their careers. I hope he has many more roles to come.
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