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Miles Teller to star in and produce movie about USF football players lost at sea

Russell Wilson and Ciara are producing the movie but it remains unclear how much of it will be shot in Clearwater where the real-life tale unfolded.
Miles Teller, left, and Keleigh Sperry arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Miles Teller, left, and Keleigh Sperry arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. [ Evan Agostini/Invision/AP ]
Published Jun. 30, 2020
Updated Jul. 1, 2020

CLEARWATER — He may not have anything cooking, a “people’s eyebrow,” nor be the biggest action star in the world, but Miles Teller is an A-list actor whose credits include the Divergent series and the upcoming Top Gun sequel.

And he is the actor and producer who will bring to the big screen a movie about former University of South Florida football player Nick Schuyler, who survived 43 hours in the Gulf of Mexico after a boat capsized and three of his friends died.

Teller will star as Schuyler in Not Without Hope, a role for which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was cast in 2013. The movie, based on Schuyler’s book of the same name, stalled for years and the role was recast.

This time, one of the film’s producer Rick French said, the movie will be shot, possibly as early as August, unless it is considered unsafe to do so due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This took a while to happen, but the timing is right,” St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer said. “Miles Teller is a better fit for the part than the Rock. Now Rock is older so he wouldn’t be right, but they got Teller who is such a talented actor. This is exciting.”

Celebrities are working behind the scenes to ensure the movie happens.

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson and Grammy Award-winning singer Ciara are the executive producers. The movie will be directed by Rupert Wainwright, whose work includes Stigmata and The Fog.

Still, it remains unclear how much of the project will be shot in Clearwater, where the real-life tale unfolded, or if Teller, who has roots in Tampa Bay, will be on set locally.

“That is still being determined,” French said. “We are still breaking down the scenes for scheduling.”

In February 2009, former USF 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’s Seminole Boat Ramp.

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. One by one, he wrote, his companions disappeared under the waves.

Today, Schuyler owns Sky Athletix gym in Lutz.

French, who is also Schuyler’s spokesperson, declined comment on his client’s behalf.

“We have assembled a great package,” French said. “It will be a real A-list cast with additional announcements in the coming weeks.”

Most of the movie will likely be made in the Dominican Republic.

“That is a two-fold reason,” French said. “The DR has some of the best water tanks in the world and that is what we need for a movie like this. The secondary reason is the DR has tax credits.”

Florida used to offer up to 30 percent back of what a production spent in Florida, with a cap of $8 million. But the program was allowed to sunset in 2016.

Still, Pinellas County has its own production incentive — 10 percent of what they spend locally. That incentive has an annual pot of $1.1 million.

“We have been working with the producers for six years to bring the movie here,” film commissioner Armer said. “Now that it is happening, we’re working harder. I hope to bring them here for as many as seven days.”

French said five days would be a better estimate, but a week is possible.

“We will likely use Clearwater for establishing shots,” French said. “In terms of actors being used in those scenes, I am not terribly optimistic but I won’t rule it out yet.”