“Ex-felon, Eugene Brown, establishes a Chess Club for inner city teenagers in Washington, D.C.” This is the one-sentence description of IMDB's entry for Life of a King, a new film with chess playing an important role, starring Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. Directed by Jake Goldberger, the film was released in cinemas in the U.S. on January 17th.
What kind of movie is Life of a King? Here's the synopsis from the official website:
Life of a King is the unlikely true story of Eugene Brown and his one-man mission to give inner-city kids of Washington D.C. something he never had – a future. He discovered a multitude of life lessons through the game of chess during his 18-year incarceration for bank robbery. After his release and reentry into the workforce, Eugene developed and founded the Big Chair Chess Club to get kids off the streets and working towards lives they never believed they were capable of due to circumstances. From his daring introductory chess lessons to a group of unruly high school students in detention to the development of the Club and the teens' first local chess competitions, this movie reveals his difficult, inspirational journey and how he changed the lives of a group of teens with no endgame.
The main character in this new “chess movie”, Eugene Brown, is played by Cuba Gooding Jr. The actor is best known for his Oscar winning role in the film Jerry Maguire, where he plays American football player Rod Tidwell. One of his first roles was his portrayal of Tré Styles in the 1991 coming-of-age classic Boyz in the Hood. He also played in As Good as It Gets, What Dreams May Come, and the Oscar-nominated A Few Good Men. He can also be seen in a film that is currently in theaters: The Butler.
Here's the official trailer of Life of a King:
The film, released by Millennium Entertainment, is based on a true story. Besides Cuba Gooding Jr, Life of a King stars Dennis Haysbert, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Thurston Hill, Chidi Ajufo, Jaida-Iman Benjamin, Rickey Brown, and Buda. The film premiered in June at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Jake Goldberger directed from a script he co-wrote with David Scott and Dan Wetzel. It hit U.S. theaters January 17th.
Chess.com's IM Danny Rensch "played a role" the film as well. Together with his friend and former partner IM David Pruess he spent “the better part of a few weeks” in Los Angeles, giving advice wherever they could about the chess part of the film (a big part!).
“In addition to working privately with the actors on their chess skills, to make the close up scenes (of which there are many) look as authentic as possible, we were also on call constantly to make sure every chess position, chess phrase, chess term, chess banner, etc., was 100% authentic.”
You can read about Danny's experience on his blog, and see lots of photos here! For example, he met with the real Eugene Brown, whose Big Chair Chess Club can be found here. You can find Life of a King on iTunes here.