Simeon Rice said he’s more nervous about his debut this week as a moviemaker than he was about playing in the Super Bowl.
Rice, whose 122 sacks rank 13th in National Football League history, jumped to Hollywood after his days playing ended, starting a career as a screenwriter, director and producer.
A 2009 graduate of the New York Film Academy, Rice, 36, will premiere his first original film at a red-carpet event in Dallas tomorrow, two days before the Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers in nearby Arlington, Texas. Rice said the preparation and anticipation is far different than eight years ago, when he had two of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ five sacks in a 27-point Super Bowl win over the Oakland Raiders.
“When I played in the Super Bowl, I wasn’t so nervous,” Rice said in a telephone interview. “I was so prepared. I knew nobody could block me. This is more nervous because I’m embarking on something new. I don’t know what kind of reaction I’ll get. I don’t know how to prepare.”
Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles and Olympic gold-medal gymnast Nastia Liukin are among the athletes who will attend the screening of “When I Was King.” Rice said his 28-minute short film, which cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to make, is a comedy that lampoons modern relationships and challenges stereotypes about the opposite sex.
“I started thinking, ‘If all of this came to an end, what would you do? What do you love beyond football?’” Rice said. “I was coming up with all these different stories and thought, ‘This is a fun process.’”
Throughout a 12-year NFL career, films remained a passion for Rice. He attended premieres, sat in on movie sets while in Tampa Bay and met actor Bruce Willis to talk about the industry. Even so, as a Pro Bowl defensive end, Rice said his interest in making movies wasn’t always taken seriously.
While on the set of “Rush Hour 3,” a 2007 action movie starring Jackie Chan, Rice said director Brett Ratner spent more time introducing him to girls than sharing moviemaking tips. Some aspiring moviemakers, knowing Rice as a professional athlete, would ask him to financially back their films.
When knee injuries ended his playing career following the 2007 season, Rice decided to pursue moviemaking rather than seek a broadcasting job like some of his peers.
“He came in from day one with a goal in mind,” Josh Adler, who taught Rice at the New York Film Academy, said in a telephone interview. “The guy took it so seriously. He was a really passionate person. He told me there are a lot of people whose goal is to be a famous athlete, but he’s just a famous athlete who had a goal to be a film-maker.”
As in football, film-makers need to train and practice in order to “play with the big boys,” said Adler, who’s in his fourth year as a professor at the New York Film Academy.
“He needs to work at it, but he absolutely has the ability,” Adler said.
Rice, who counts Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott among his favorite film-makers, said he has more movies planned. Among them are a horror movie, a “consummate football film” based loosely on his life and a “period piece” about old-school Chicago, his hometown.
For this week though, the Super Bowl is providing a new stage for Rice’s comedy, a film far removed from his days as one of the top NFL pass-rushers in his era.
“I’m the first one making this walk, so it’s a unique walk,” Rice said. “I’m joining the ranks of something new and I’m excited about it.”
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