Power couple Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade is teaming up with fellow power couple Ciara and Russell Wilson to bring the story of NFL star Vernon Turner to the big screen.
Turner’s story has been adapted for screen in Brad Gann’s script, Relentless, and it’s caught the eye of Union, Wade, Ciara and Russell. The two couples will produce the film through Union’s production company, I’ll Have Another Productions, Wade’s own 59th and Prairie Entertainment and Wilson and Ciara’s joint production company, Why Not You Productions. Other producers on the film include Magic Hour’s Brett Gursky and Josh Surkin. Nicholas Katsapas will serve as executive producer.
The film will be based on Turner’s self-published autobiography The Next Level: A Game I had to Play. The story will follow Turner’s rise to NFL stardom in the 1990s, which came amid many personal struggles. In his description of his book, he wrote, “When people look at me and my life from the outside, they say man, ‘VT has it all’; this guy actually lived the American dream…But what people don’t see is the bad dreams I still have to this day due to events that occurred while I was growing up. No one will ever understand the pain and regret I have inside due to my past…things that will haunt me until the day I die!” He goes on to describe his life as one of “a young man that went up against insurmountable odds to save his family and in the process, achieve a childhood dream.”
Wilson, Ciara, Wade and Union became interested in the film project after reading Turner’s 2016 The Player Tribune article “Letter To My Younger Self,” as revealed in their joint statement. In the article, Turner revealed his childhood trauma of discovering his mother using drugs when he was 11 years old, leading his mother to reveal she was a victim of sexual assault, a moment that haunted her throughout her adulthood. Turner wrote in the article that he discovered he was a product of that assault and how that affected his self-esteem throughout childhood.
“After reading Vernon’s ‘Letter to my Younger Self,’ we all learned so much more about this man than what was presented to us growing up,” said the couples in their statement. “His story isn’t just one of an accomplished athlete. It’s a story of resilience, family and the will to survive by any means possible. We consider ourselves to be survivors of our own personal struggles who have also come out on the other side and couldn’t be more excited to tell this story together. Once we read Brad Gann’s script, we knew we had to get this made. This is truly a story of Black excellence at its finest.”
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