Rick French goes Hollywood

11/13/2013 12:54 PM

11/13/2013 12:55 PM

The founder and CEO of Raleigh communications agency French/West/Vaughan is adding a new line to his resume: executive producer of a Hollywood movie.

Rick French is one of the executive producers of an upcoming film starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson based on the non-fiction book "Not Without Hope," a New York Times best-seller.

The studio making the movie, Relativity, has made films such as "The Social Network," "The Fighter" and "Immortals." Relativity announced Wednesday that it has obtained the rights to "Not Without Hope." Financial terms weren't disclosed.

"They're financing this whole project in-house," French said. "That's a pretty strong commitment."

French's Hollywood adventure stems from his agency's representation of Nick Schuyler, the survivor of a tragic boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico in which three of his friends — Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, Detroit Lions defensive end and former N.C. State University star Corey Smith, and Will Bleakey, who played football at the University of South Florida — died. French subsequently brokered a book deal for Schuyler, who wrote about his experience in "Not Without Hope" with New York Times sportswriter Jere Longman.

French said he's been working on a deal that would bring the book to the screen since it was published three years ago. And, in typical Hollywood fashion, progress wasn't always straightforward.

"Not Without Hope" previously was optioned by actor Mark Wahlberg's production company, Closest to the Hole Productions, but plans to produce a movie never got rolling, according to French.

"When I let it be known the rights were available again … at that point I had tremendous interest," French said. "I heard from a number of studios, production houses and so on."

French said he and Schuyler were impressed by Relativity's vision for the film.

"They immediately said something that Nick and I were looking for, which was, this was not a movie focusing on how Nick's friends perished. It's about how they lived," French said.

In Hollywood, an executive producer doesn't necessarily take an active role in making a film. But French said he anticipates rolling up his sleeves.

"I've been very involved in the discussions about casting, about potential directors and screenwriters," French said. "I expect to be involved in it — not in a meddlesome way — but making sure that the story is the kind of story that we all are going to be proud of."

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