EXCLUSIVE: When producer Michael De Luca made a lifestyle decision to split time between Hollywood and Texas, you had to figure the Captain Phillips and Social Network producer would make the most of his time and find a homegrown story from the latter locale with movie potential. Sure enough, De Luca Productions is teaming with Santa Rita Film Co. and has set a fall production start for the independently financed drama 12 Mighty Orphans. An adaptation of a novel by Jim Dent, the drama tells the true story of a group of Fort Worth orphans who vie for the state championship and rally a broken nation at the height of the Great Depression.
Ty Roberts will direct a script he co-wrote with Lane Garrison. De Luca will produce with Houston Hill, who acquired the rights through Santa Rita Film Co, which produced The Iron Orchard, which Roberts directed from a script he wrote with Garrison. Angelique De Luca will also produce alongside Brinton Bryan, latter of whom arranged financing through his Greenbelt Films banner. George Young Jr., Rhett Bennett, Greg McCabe and J. Todd Harris will be executive producers.
At an orphanage perched atop a hill overlooking Fort Worth, Coach Rusty Russell turned a scrawny band of 12 underdogs castoff orphans into a team of fierce warriors that left their opponents bewildered and battered. In spite of being outweighed by at least thirty pounds per man, the youngsters become one of the toughest football team in Texas. They began with nothing―not even a football―yet Russell’s innovative offense helps lead the orphans to the state playoffs. At a time when America desperately needs fresh hope and big dreams, the Orphans prove that heart can triumph over great obstacles.
Michael De Luca said he “loved Ty Roberts’ previous film The Iron Orchard, and jumped at the chance to work with him and our other producers on his follow up, 12 Mighty Orphans. The world needs to see powerful, inspirational true stories like this right now and this one, with its message that every single child, regardless of class and background, has tremendous God given value and deserves their chance to be loved and shine will resonate with audiences worldwide.”
Said Roberts: “I hope 12 Mighty Orphans will help us to ensure that all kids have a source of inspiration through sports and education. At its core, this is a story about American youth trying to find purpose in a harsh and self-serving world, which is as pertinent today as it was almost a century ago.”
Hill said he spent a decade tying down the rights. “It’s a movie that everyone can get behind regardless of politics and I can’t think of a better time to put out a film like this,” he said. Added Bryan: “Movies like this just don’t get made anymore. Being a native Texan, I’ve always been drawn to true, Texas stories, but the impact that Rusty Russell had on not just his community, but the entire nation, is a timeless tale that couldn’t be more deserving of a proper on-screen portrayal.”
Said Angelique De Luca: “This story literally takes me through all of life’s emotions, which to me always makes the best movies. Most of all it has inspired me to help children in different philanthropic ways and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of such an inspiring story. The fact that it takes place right here in my own hometown of Fort Worth, TX really makes this a dream come true for me.”
Next up for Michael De Luca Production is the August 9 release The Kitchen, a drama that stars Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss as mob wives who take over the business when their men are incarcerated. The company also has the series The Baby-Sitters Club at Netflix, and they are percolating the Doug Miro-scripted Yasuke with Chadwick Boseman to star as the first black samurai in ancient Japan, and the Lisa Joy-directed Hugh Jackman-Rebecca Ferguson-starrer Reminiscence, which begins production this fall for Warner Bros. De Luca just exec produced the Ben Stiller-directed Escape at Dannemora for Showtime, a limited series that is in Emmy contention.