Football star turned director
Simeon Rice, former Arizona Cardinals defensive end, has recently made his way into the movie making industry with his new movie “Unsullied.” Having written the screenplay and directed the film, Rice has immersed himself in this field and with this being his directorial debut, it is safe to say that he will have a very bright future in movie making. “Unsullied” is an action thriller that will have you at the edge of your seat always and is a movie that the light of heart should be cautious of. Check out what he had to say about his first movie.
Talk about the title of the movie being “Unsullied” and the relevance of that word in relation to the film?
Simeon Rice: This young lady is met by two sociopathic hunters that are completely sullied. So, the question is, does she become like them or is she unsullied.
How was the casting process like for this film?
Rice: I sat in that session, the first day for about 9 to 10 hours. Michelle Gracie casted, one of the producers, did a marvelous job. It all began with Candice, the girl that plays as the Flash and we lost her to that show. But after we lost Candice Patton to the TV show Flash, I really had to open that up. So we only we had a short window for Candice because she had to start shooting her new hit show. So I’m like, we have to find a girl that embodies beauty, grace, strength, vulnerability, and all these different elements and characteristics to her. We wrote the character based off of my four little sisters. She had to embody the girl next door, an athlete, ambitious young girl, she had to play a little sister type as well and within, you feel this coming of age story. So I cast it literally three to four hundred girls all over the country between L.A and Florida to find this character. I’ve seen girls coming in and going out and they said during that whole process Simeon, you’re going to get tired because casting is real rough process and we had some bankable names come, some A-list actors come in and all that sort of thing, but I really want to find a fresh new face, I really did. So that was going to be my directorial debut so I didn’t want to work with somebody so seasoned that you could have a problem. I wanted somebody I was going to be able to grow on this process with as your director, somebody that was really going to listen to me and deal with so many egos because I had this vision for this character So I get this tape, I get tapes and looking at endless amounts of video, even from people auditioning over Face time. I see this young lady named Murray Gray, got the tape from Michelle that she’s a great actress, check this out, she’s new, and I’m like, I’m not feeling it. She says Simeon, let me just get her to the audition, you’re going to love her, you’re going to love it and I told her I don’t love it, but bring her to the audition anyway. She came in, she has her audition and I’m like oh she’s pretty good. [Michelle’s] like does she make it to the next round and I’m like she does and she says I told you she good. Also, I had a couple other girls that were in front of her, cause like I want to do it like the process that’s like sports, like how I operate. I want to find the best person. I want to find the best person that’s going to get this role. I don’t want to go with somebody that think’s they’re going to get this role because they have cache, they have name behind them. I want somebody that’s going to earn this role. So she comes in next time, again, she wasn’t high on my wish list, but after that second audition I was like wow this girl is good. She’s really good. I’m kind of confused, I’m like, she just moved up a little bit. Not to number one or two, but she definitely top five. I’m speaking in my head like wow, didn’t expect that. She comes in again, she gets even better. Throughout the entire process she came in three or four times. Last time she came in I’m like this is our girl. She continued to elevate in the audition process. I’ve seen a lot of people audition, hundreds, and she continues to go and get better. She went hard. She elevated her status.
Talk about your experience directing this film.
Rice: At the beginning was a little bouncy because I got to be here spending my time with these actors, this isn’t a short anymore, it’s a full feature, it’s going to be rough in the woods of Florida. We talking moss, trees, swamp, mosquitos, snakes, fire ants, we talking raccoons, spiders, poisonous spiders, black widow spiders, everything that’s alive. Everything is alive. I’m like oh my God, I have to direct actors in this atmosphere? In this element? In this environment? I’m like, they really want to do a great movie. They can’t go out there with that mentality because this is also a low budget, this is also an indie film. Because it’s an indie film, the budget isn’t a Hollywood studio film, we got to make do. You still got to be excited about everything in your life. This is where you want to be. There’s got to be no place more that you want to be other than right here, in the wild, in hell, dealing with the elements, creating a story and it was fascinating. It was beautiful to see that everybody was signed on. Me as the director was signed on because I send the message as the director that this is no place more that I want to be. Being a director is a leadership position so I took on that leadership position, but also was in total submission to my actors. I wanted them to be in total control and feel totally comfortable with what we were at each time. So I built a mentality and I set myself to be an example of how I wanted our set to be and it didn’t go flawless, but it was pretty, pretty smooth.
Where did the idea come from when you were writing the screenplay?
Rice: Just watching. I was watching this movie called “No Country For Old Men,” I was watching “Hostile,” and I said to myself—I wanted to create a film that had a woman as a lead and also had a higher level of intrigue and suspense and thrill set in the woods and I wanted to create the ultimate concept. So what better way than have a girl from the city maroon her car on the side of the road and she gets kidnapped and all of these consequences happen and where she is thrust into the game of kill or be killed.
Can you speak about the use Reagan’s flashbacks and how you wanted those flashbacks to influence her as a character?
Rice: The flashbacks were used because the true element of the story, if you take away all the chaos, is a coming of age story. I wanted to make Reagan’s coming of age story something that people could understand where she comes from, what she is about, why she thinks the way she does, why is she so thrilling, what gives her that competitive edge, what helps fill her spirit, what helps her propel her in tough situations, what was her food for thought and who gave it to her. I wanted people to be able to understand her as a character, as a person. In this thrilling juxtaposition with the crazy and complicated situation that she is dealing with, she is also dealing with internal situations as well, as a reflection of herself, where she starts off one way and she ends up another way.
Coming from a football background, how did you come into the movie making industry?
Rice: It was really just ambition. What led the way was an ambitious idea, the thought of being something different than I was. Seeing if I could actualize what was being suggested, a meaningful contribution to storytelling and saying to myself at that time that I wanted to being film back to Tampa, that I wanted to tell a tale, I wanted to be a filmmaker, and with that power of suggestion that led me down that road to become a filmmaker and challenging myself as a filmmaker and ultimately and directing and having my directorial debut August 28 and nationwide in theaters and having a movie. It all began with an idea and with thought and ambition.
How has your sports background impacted you as a filmmaker and a director?
Rice: I really wanted to create an element of sparseness and an element of excitement. When I got into film, I knew nothing about it and I wanted to succeed at it so I said I am going to use the same drive that I had and not allowing myself to fail, no excuses, no explanations, just do it, and I felt like that motto was one of those things that manifested itself in anything I do. So if you take that idea into filmmaking, into finishing school, into problem solving, any complications, it is kind of like a failsafe button that you hit because once you submit yourself to that, you only leave room for that and remove all excuses you are only left with are results. So I approached it with that thought process. I have never failed at anything so let me just submit myself to the process. I went through the process, that’s why I went to film school, I went through the process, you will come out with the knowledge and understanding and make it applicable to what you want to do as a filmmaker. And I won’t stop until I get what I want and that’s what I was able to do in football; hard work and dedication, it doesn’t matter where, that’s the basis, that’s the principle, that’s the way, that’s the path.
Anything else coming up for you that you would like to share?
Rice: I really want people to see this film. I really believe that I have a breakout actress over here in Murray Gray, she did a fantastic, masterful job. As well as with Rusty Joiner. Rusty Joiner is right now nominated for best actor in his film “Voiceless” and so he just got the best actor nomination for that. Again, he does a masterful job as well. Between those two, they will get nominated also for this movie as well. They did a masterful job with this film. They took this film to epic heights. If you want to see a film, I am telling you, this is one of the best pictures you will see this year. “Unsullied” is a nonstop, action, roller coaster ride of a film filled with plot twists and everything you can expect from a film. It is entertaining and thrilling and a great backstory. It is a must see.
The film is now playing!