STXFilms has announced their partnership with John Wick studio Thunder Road to produce the upcoming sports drama film titled National Champions with Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Golden Globe nominee Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk) attached for the leading roles. In addition, STXfilms’ frequent collaborator Ric Roman Waugh has also signed on to helm the film as his follow-up project to last year’s disaster film Greenland. Production on the project is expected to begin next month in New Orleans.
“Our experience with Ric on Greenland was nothing short of extraordinary,” Chairman of the STXfilms Motion Picture Group Adam Fogelson said in a statement. “When we had the opportunity to work with him and our friends at Thunder Road and game1 on National Champions, we jumped at the chance. 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.”
Based on Adam Mervis’ stage play of the same name, National Champions will explore the big business of college sports when a star quarterback (James) 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.
Waugh will direct the film from a screenplay adapted by Mervis, who is also set as an executive producer. It is produced by game1’s Greg Economou, Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk and Brendon Boyea, with Jonathan Fuhrman serving as an executive producer. Executive producers are Matthew Helderman and Luke Taylor of Bondit Media Capital, Christian Mercuri of The Capstone Group, and Michael Smith.
Stephan James is best known for his performances in Barry Jenkins-directed film If Beale Street Could Talk and in Amazon Prime Video’s Homecoming Season 1, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Television Series Drama.
Meanwhile, Simmons has two upcoming high-profile features that are set to debut this year. First is Amazon Prime Video’s sci-fi action film The Tomorrow War and the long-delayed horror-comedy sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife. He is currently in production for Oscar-winning filmmaker Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming biopic drama Being the Ricardos which will be led by Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem.