Ex-NFL Star Simeon Rice on His ‘Exciting,’ ‘Troubling’ Directorial Debut

“[‘Unsullied’] is … everything that we really set out for it to be,” the Super Bowl champion tells TheWrap

When NFL players retire from the game, their second careers run the gamut: Broadcaster. Coach. Media member. Real estate agent. Car salesman. Business owner. Family man.

But … filmmaker? Welcome to Simeon Rice’s world.

Rice, who terrorized opposing quarterbacks for 12 years in the NFL, is tackling a different industry these days. As a director, Rice recently made his feature film debut at the American Film Market with “Unsullied.”

“It was amazing, it was tough, it was exciting, it was troubling,” Rice told TheWrap about making his first feature-length film. “It was an experience that had so many highs and so many lows, but in the end it was very gratifying and very fulfilling. It was arduous and it was difficult … but I’m very pleased with the end result.”

“Unsullied” is an action thriller produced by Dreamline Pictures, which Rice founded in 2011. Rice wrote and directed the film, and along with producers Michelle Gracie, Ghana Cooper and John Nodilo, he screened it Nov. 8 at AFM in Santa Monica.

“The film is thrilling, it’s exciting, it’s suspenseful … it’s everything that we really set out for it to be,” Rice said. “I’m so thrilled about the film, words can’t even describe.”

Starring newcomer and UCLA film school alumna Murray Gray as the story’s heroine, “Unsullied” also features Rusty Joiner (“Dodgeball,” “Resident Evil”) and James Gaudioso (“Duke,” “The Ghost and the Whale”). Loosely based on a true story, it follows Reagan Farrow, a former track and field sprinter who admired her late older sister. Reagan’s car breaks down on her way to a race, and two sociopathic strangers play a wicked game of cat and mouse after saying they’ll help her. Shot on location in Tampa, Florida, the film tracks Reagan’s fight for survival.

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Unsullied

Rice described the main message he hopes viewers take away.

“To never give up — never, ever, ever give up,” he said. “We have a strong hero character — a young lady from the city; she’s kind of a fish out of water. However, she’s put into these real situations. Good things happen as long as you continue to fight, and believe. Always stay in the fight and never, ever give up.”

Dreamline is in talks with major companies regarding immediate distribution for “Unsullied.” Rice, who said he’s “in a fight for distribution,” has many interested parties, but he hasn’t yet received the deal he wants. He’s eyeing theatrical distribution, after already having locked up ancillary platforms like VOD.

“To me, the business aspect is the most difficult part because you’ve got to get it right,” Rice said. “There are so many horror stories and so many pretenders. This stage right now — figuring out how we get this thing in theaters — is the most difficult part because you really, really need legitimate people to [do it].”

Simeon Rice

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A Super Bowl champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rice played his last NFL snap in 2007. He attended film school at the New York Film Academy after his playing career as he sought to learn the nuances of writing, directing and producing.

“We only have one life,” he said. “When I finished playing, I told myself that everything I always wanted to do, I was gonna do. I didn’t want to jump into this blind, because that’s basically how you fail.”

A series sale to HBO followed, and he then set his sights on selling a feature film. The competitive streak he carried as one of his era’s best defensive linemen has transferred into his work as a movie man.

“I’m in a fight for a platform to showcase what I’ve done as a filmmaker, a storyteller and director,” Rice told TheWrap. “I’m excited, and I’m dogmatic about getting this film out there.”

Rice has written a few other scripts that “really speak to storytelling and a fascinating way to experience a visual story.” While he focuses on racking up his filmmaking credits, he’s not spending much time contemplating why he’s hardly been considered for selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Rice said, “I don’t sit back and I don’t think about the past that much. I put it in perspective. I’m of the belief that you never let another man determine your worth. It’s out of my hands. For whatever reason, I’m on hold right now.”

With 122 career sacks, eight seasons of 10 or more sacks and a Super Bowl ring, the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end has a worthy case. Does he believe he deserves a spot?

Unsullied

Unsullied

“Without question,” he said. “I felt like I was the most dominant (defensive) player in my decade. I averaged more sacks a year than anybody in the history of the game. If you dominate your era, typically you get in.

“But I’m not gonna cry over spilled milk. Those things matter to me, but I control what I can control.”

Find out more information on “Unsullied” and watch the trailer.