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Movie about USF football players lost at sea to be made in Clearwater

“Not Without Hope” is based on the true story of the boat accident that took the lives of three football players and left a fourth stranded at sea.

A little more than a decade after the U.S. Coast Guard found Nick Schuyler clinging to the engine mount of a capsized boat, a movie will be made about his ordeal. Not Without Hope will share his story of surviving 43 hours in the Gulf of Mexico and losing three friends in the tragic accident.

And parts of it will be shot in Clearwater, where the real-life tale unfolded.

Not Without Hope, the same title as Schuyler’s bestselling autobiography, will begin production in 2020, the movie’s Facebook page announced on Tuesday.

“We don’t know exactly when yet,” St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer said. “So much of that will depend on casting. As soon as they have a cast attached, they can figure out when everyone is available.”

The movie will be directed by Rupert Wainwright, whose work includes Stigmata and The Fog.

In February 2009, former University of South Florida football players and best friends Schuyler and William Bleakley, along with Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper and free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith, left for a fishing trip from the Clearwater Marina.

Sky Athletix owner Nick Schuyler trains Jim Sullivan at the gym in Lutz in 2014.
Sky Athletix owner Nick Schuyler trains Jim Sullivan at the gym in Lutz in 2014.

Their 21-foot vessel flipped in the choppy waters 75 miles from shore when the men tried to free a stuck anchor by gunning the motor, according to Schuyler’s account in his book Not Without Hope. One by one, he wrote, his companions disappeared under the waves.

All of the movie scenes on the boat and at sea will be shot in water tanks in England, Armer said.

“But there is a good portion — though I don’t know how many days yet — that will take place in our area," he said, "because they left from the Clearwater Marina and a big part of the story is the heroic efforts of the Coast Guard and the search and rescue.”

Schuyler, who today owns Sky Athletix gym in Lutz, did not respond to a request for comment.

The book Not Without Hope was released in 2009 and was first optioned for a movie in 2013. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was attached to the movie at some point, but no longer is, Armer said.

Still, Armer is excited that this movie is happening and filming locally.

“It speaks to how this industry works,” Armer said. “Things take time. It’s been more than five years since they first wanted to make this film, and for five years I have stayed in contact with the producers. This is thrilling.”