Lionstage has found that churches love to round up the congregation and see movies that use faith as a backbone for powerful drama. That’s why the studio has a deal with Kingdom Story Company, a film and television studio specializing in movies with Christian themes. After recently adapting the true story of Christian rock singer Jeremy Camp and his wife’s battle with cancer in I Still Believe, Lionsgate and Kingdom Story are heading into the sports world.
American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story will tell the story of the titular two-time NFL MVP and Hall of Fame quarterback who played for the St. Louis Rams, the New York Giants, and the Arizona Cardinals. Throughout his career, Warner was never shy about his faith as a Christian, and he believes that played heavily into his journey from stocking shelves in grocery stores to becoming a star football player. Now he’ll be played by Chuck and Shazam! star Zachary Levi in the new movie.
The Wrap has news on the Kurt Warner movie in the works at Lionsgate, with I Still Believe and I Can Only Imagine directing duo Jon Erwin and Andrew Erwin on board. The two brothers co-founded Kingdom Story Company with Kevin Downes (who is also producing) and Tony Young, and they’ve certainly found their niche in providing faith-based movies for religious audiences.
American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story will be based on Warner’s own memoir, All Things Possible: My Story of Faith, Football and the First Miracle Season. But Friday Night Lights writer David Aaron Cohen, who co-wrote the script with the Erwin brothers, will also be using other materials, such as interviews with Warner, as source material. Producer Mark Ciardi will bring his sports movie experience from Invincible and The Rookie to the table, and Kurt Warner will also produce along with his wife Brenda Warner.
This is a lower budget movie that will likely have an easier time getting in front of cameras as Hollywood resumes production while still fighting the coronavirus pandemic, so it will be Zachary Levi’s next project. That means it will get off the ground before the developing sequel to the DC Comics movie Shazam! at Warner Bros. Pictures (which we might hear more about at DC FanDome in August). Jon Erwin is thrilled about the prospect of working with Levi, saying in a statement:
“Zachary was our first and only choice. He brings a combination of humble charm and charisma as well as an intense physicality to the role. For our last several films, we have brought inspiring real life stories to the big screen and there is something magnificent and magical to Kurt’s rise as a champion.”
Warner has long credited God with healing him after he sustained a concussion in 2000, and he has publicly affirmed his faith many times throughout his career, including when he was named NFL Super Bowl MVP twice. Levi seems to be inspired by that, saying:
“Kurt’s story is one of relentless faith – in his own abilities but even more so in a higher power. When I read Kurt’s story, I identified with the quiet strength he found to persevere – that’s something I think anybody can recognize in their own lives. This is the kind of underdog story that sports movies are all about, and the fact that it’s true makes it even more special. I’m thrilled to be part of bringing his story to audiences.”
This will be the third movie that Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company have collaborated on in the first year of their long-term production deal. Though their last movie, I Still Believe, didn’t rake in a lot of money at the box office, that’s mostly because it was released just before the coronavirus pandemic shut down movie theaters. Their previous film, I Can Only Imagine, grossed over $86 million worldwide on a budget of just $7 million. So you can see why Lionsgate likes being in the faith-based movie business.
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