Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
As Sundance kicks into high gear with much of the spectrum of the indie world high up in Utah, Millennium will debut Life Of A King with Cuba Gooding, Jr. The project has been a passion of veteran producer Jim Young over a decade in the making and will open in a fairly sizable launch this weekend. Music Box will bow Generation War, a feature that was initially shown as a highly successful mini-series in Germany with a “unique” story against the backdrop of WWII. Also a project that gestated over some years, Back In The Day will bow this weekend via Screen Media Films, while Magnet releasing will open Israeli-produced thriller Big Bad Wolves. And festival favorite LGBT-centered G.B.F. will open in an initial limited run by Vertical Entertainment.
Life Of A King has roots in a segment from ABC’sNightline over a decade ago. The drama centers on ex-felon, Eugene Brown (Cuba Gooding, Jr) who establishes a Chess Club for inner city teens in Washington, D.C. “I met a sports writer named Dan Wetzel and he said I had to watch this episode ofNightline about Eugene Brown,” said producer Jim Young. “I watched it and it was unbelievable.” He attempted to track Brown down via the internet, but had difficulty at the time (we’ve come a long way) and decided to go the traditional route by hiring a private detective. “He was dumbfounded someone called and wanted to do a movie on him. I started developing the script with Dan [Wetzel] and Dave Scott,” said Young. “Eventually a writer/director I had worked with as a producer on a previous film, Jake Goldberger, [took a look] and worked on a script re-write.” That was 8 years ago, around the time both Young and Goldberger worked on an earlier project, Don McKay. Life Of A King had some sizable production outfits on board at various stages, but it had difficulty getting a final home, but eventually they received a call about the feature from a company in Atlanta. “In early 2012, after many years of toiling to get the film made, we found an amazing partner in UP Entertainment and we were off running,” said Young. Meanwhile, a casting agent had contacted Cuba Gooding, Jr., who read the script, and he came on board.