In a competitive situation, MGM’s Orion Pictures has won the feature film rights and will partner with producer Freddy Wexler on a feature length film based on the life of Keith Adams, coach of the championship winning all-deaf High School football team, the Riverside Cubs.
The film, which will also focus on the lives of Adams’ two sons who played on the team, is expected to begin production in 2023.
Henry Joost and Rel Schulman, the duo behind “Project Power” and “Catfish,” are set to direct the feature from a script by Josh Feldman, best known for Marvel’s “Grasshopper,” and a story by Wexler. Feldman previously co-wrote “This Close,” the first major U.S. series created by deaf writers.
The underdog story of Coach Adams and the Cubs captivated the heart of America. The California School for the Deaf, Riverside, is the only deaf high school in its division and one of only two schools in the state for deaf people. After seven straight losing seasons, the Cubs, led by Coach Adams and his son, the team’s star quarterback, won 11 consecutive victories against all hearing teams, and made it to the state championship for the first time in the school’s 68-year history. Though they lost, the Cubs returned to the state championship this year, on Nov. 18 — where they played the same team — and won it all. They are the first deaf football team from California to ever win the title.
“We’re thrilled that the inspiring story of Keith Adams and the remarkable Cubs has found a home at MGM’s Orion Pictures, a studio with an incredible track record of telling bold and compelling stories,” said Wexler. “Not only is this a heartfelt family and sports drama, it is also a groundbreaking story for representation in sports. With Orion’s support and an amazing creative team behind this film, we look forward to breaking new ground on representation in Hollywood.”
Alana Mayo, president of Orion Pictures, added: “The story at the heart of this project lies squarely in the unwavering belief Coach Adams had in his team and the team’s belief that there was nothing they couldn’t achieve together. Orion continues to be a home for stories that celebrate every community and we are thrilled to be working with The Adams family, Freddy, DJ, Josh, Henry and Rel to bring this incredible story to audiences.”
“Trusting someone with your life rights is hard to do, but my family and I know Freddy, Alana and this whole team will honor the true, authentic story of our community and the historic rise of the Riverside Cubs,” said Adams.
It was previously announced that Wexler acquired the exclusive life rights of the Adams’ family and will produce the feature film alongside DJ Kurs, the Tony-nominated and deaf artistic director of Deaf West Theatre, the company behind “Spring Awakening” and an upcoming “CODA” musical. Eryn Brown of Entertainment 360, Dean Movshovitz of the Freddy Wexler Company, Elliah Heifetz of Evergreen Enterprise Experience and Orlee-Rose Strauss of Supermarché will executive produce. Brown and Kurs are co-founders of the 1IN4 Coalition, an advocacy organization they helped launch last year to tackle issues of employment and representation of disabled people in Hollywood.
The creative team behind the film is committed to casting a deaf actor in the leading role, as part of a commitment to discover and champion more deaf talent in Hollywood. All deaf roles will be played by deaf or hard of hearing actors, including the football team.
This project joins a growing slate of film and television projects produced by Wexler, including the previously announced “Soul Superhero,” a live-action musical fantasy, which Wexler is producing with Westbrook Studios and co-writing with Kwame Kwei-Armah. There’s also “Grace,” which will center on a highly talented, disabled dancer. Wexler is producing that film for Walt Disney Pictures and co-writing with Kiera Allen. Additionally, Wexler has partnered with the NFL to produce and co-direct a short documentary about Adams and the Cubs.
Orion Pictures’ recent films include Billy Porter’s directorial debut “What If?” and Chinonye Chukwu’s “Till,” with the latter seen as a major Oscars contender. Upcoming releases include Sarah Polley’s critically acclaimed “Women Talking” and a feature adaption of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Nickel Boys” from RaMell Ross.
Wexler is represented by CAA and Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson. Joost and Schulman are represented by CAA and attorney James Feldman at Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler and Feldman. Feldman is represented by UTA, Grandview, and attorney Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein.