I recently chatted with former NFL super star Simeon Rice about his journey into directing and his debut project, UNSULLIED. In theaters August 28th 2015

This should be an exciting time. Your first full-length feature film is a really taut thriller. I watched it and it had all the elements that I think need to be in a film like this. You had a bad guy that you can't stand and this really strong female character who has to take matters into her own hands. There are many directions you could have gone, as a first film, what drew you to this genre?

Really, what drew me to this film, let me be straight, was watching NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It really created a platform of anxiety. I was like, "Wow, I could watch hours of this level of anxiety." It left me at the edge of my seat. The Coen Brothers did a masterful job at creating that, and I said if I do a movie, I want to do a movie like that, that creates that type of tone.

I'm very intrigued by, and I think a lot of people should know, the fact that here you are, you had this great career playing professional football, you could've just gone into the film industry and said, "I'm Simeon Rice, dude. Let me make a film." But you went to film school. You actually paid some dues there and went to learn the art of filmmaking.

Right, I was with CAA. Tom Condon was my agent. Had the biggest PR firm in the country, Rogers and Cowan. So many people were giving advice. 'You don't have to go to film school while you're doing that'. 'You can just walk right in and start making films', and this and that, I said just because you have that privilege doesn't mean you have that right. The right comes from hard work.
Yes, you might be privileged to do those things, but that's entitlement. I didn't earn that.
I was never taken serious.
If I go in there and get educated and learn the business, you can lie to me, but it's going to be hard to, because I can shred it with the truth. I can look at it from a discerning standpoint, and I'm like, "Why not? Why not get educated? Why not find structure?" I found the structure in school and I put my backbone in it.  I loved it. It wasn't a harmful process. It was a learning process with a bunch of other people who were learning as well.

Anybody who ever started out with anything in America, you start out in school. Whatever we ever learn, we learn from our basic principles. I wanted to learn from these basic principles without it being a hindrance to me, without having to lose a lot more money than I was doing because I was trying to just jump in. Because I had the privilege to do it. But I didn't have the right to be there.
I decided I'm not going to try to circumvent the process. I'm going to submit myself to the process, and in that submission, I'm going to find the truth. In that submission, I'm going to plant the seeds that's going to be able to birth a filmmaker, a real filmmaker, a knowledgeable filmmaker, a discerning filmmaker.  A paradigm shift is going to happen. People are going to be forced to see what I can do, and they're going to shake their heads "Oh, why didn't he do a football movie?"
It's elevating and understanding. Not dumbing down to understand, but elevating to understand, "Wow, you're more than what we thought. There's more to you than what we thought." The root of it was always there. I'm just tapping into it now.
We are who we see ourselves as. Not how other people see us as. We bear fruit from what's inside of us.

How much mentoring did you give to your leading lady, Murray Gray? Because you put her through the ringer, man.

She is a trooper, Matt. I did. She went through it all. She is a wonderful actress. She was up for it, but it was intense. She had to go from crying, happy, to melancholy, to excited, to angry, to strong. There's so many different acting points that she had to get into, and keep in mind, this is a young lady who has never done a movie before. However, she just had the acting chops. She is a wonderful actress. She is really every bit of the character, and she really took the character to heavenly heights. She evolved in her role and she evolved the character along the way. It was a beautiful story in there.

This might be a hard question, just to wrap our little conversation up. What to you would be the pinnacle of success in your film career as, say, the Superbowl was to your past life? What would be the pinnacle for you personally?

That is a good question. When I'd be able to create that film that resonates with people as one of the greatest films they ever saw. I want to entertain people with films and with strong stories, and be able to inspire a generation by my film; to change the way you look at film.
For people to look at black people different, Asian people different. Everyone has a story. If through our film no more do we have these typical ways that we look at people, because now we can cast people based upon story, based upon who fits, based upon those types of things as opposed to being limited to a perspective of what people are; If I do that I think I will have done my job to an extent.

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