After first working together alongside Chadwick Boseman on the action-thriller 21 Bridges, Stephan James and J.K. Simmons are reuniting for the college football movie National Champions, which is getting its game face on at STXfilms.
In a change of pace for him, Ric Roman Waugh (Greenland) will direct from a script by Adam Mervis, who adapted his own play of the same name. That’s right, this sports drama is based on a play! That’s not really the STX model, but this play actually sounds pretty interesting.
National Champions examines the big business of college sports, as the story follows a star quarterback (James) who ignites a player’s strike 72 hours before the biggest game of the year to fight for fair compensation, equality, and respect for the athletes who put their bodies and health on the line for their schools.
Basil Iwanyk (John Wick) and Brendon Boyea of Thunder Road will produce alongside Greg Economou of game1. Executive producers include Jonathan Fuhrman of Thunder Road,Matthew Helderman and Luke Taylor of Bondit Media Capital and Christian Mercuri of The Capstone Group, as well as Michael Smith and Mervis. Production is slated to start next month in New Orleans.
“Our experience with Ric on Greenland was nothing short of extraordinary,” said STXfilms chairman Adam Fogelson. “This is a film that taps into important issues and does it with compelling, authentic, and memorable characters. In the best tradition of sports dramas, they will leave audiences rooting for victory and perhaps considering the competitive nature of college sports and athletics in a different way.”
Simmons won an Oscar for Whiplash and currently voices Omni-Man on Amazon‘s animated superhero series Invincible. He recently starred opposite Andy Samberg in the comedy Palm Springs, and he’ll soon be seen alongside Chris Pratt in Amazon‘s sci-fi movie The Tomorrow War.
James earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work opposite Julia Roberts in the Amazon series Homecoming, and also received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the Quibi series #FreeRayshawn. His feature credits include Ava DuVernay‘s Selma, Barry Jenkins‘ drama If Beale Street Could Talk, and the Jesse Owens biopic Race.
Waugh most recently directed STX‘s Gerard Butler movie Greenland, and he’ll reteam with the star once again on the upcoming action thriller Kandahar. This is a promising package built around a powerful premise, and I look forward to seeing who else is cast in National Champions, as I dig the director’s taste when it comes to casting.