LOS ANGELES—Dover native James Black has rescued the rights to a Perry Reese movie that had been on hold and on the shelves of Walt Disney Pictures.
And now he's looking for your help.
The former athlete, current actor and future producer starred in football and wrestling in his hometown in the early 1980s, went on to play running back at the University of Akron which turned into a short stint playing for the Cleveland Browns before he turned to another passion, acting.
He's had a very successful career in Hollywood, playing alongside stars of the big and small screen.
His exploits as an actor and producer have led him to The Perry Reese Project, one that people can get directly involved by donating to a website (www.theperryreeseproject.com) he and his wife have created.
Reese, who coached high school boys' basketball at Hiland from 1984 to 2000, lived an inspirational story, moving to a mostly white, Mennonite and Amish community to coach.
As a black man, he had to overcome many odds, including breaking down some large prejudicial barriers.
Reese's story caught the eye of Gary Smith, a writer for Sports Illustrated, who wrote an extensive piece for the magazine back in 2001. That led to Disney picking up the rights to his story.
“I was mesmerized, and thought this was a story that definitely needed to be told on film," said Black in a recent phone interview. "I knew about Coach Reese, but I really didn't know his story until I talked to Doug (Klar, a close personal friend of Reese)."
Black actually was in the process of making a film based on area high school football and how important it is to a community when Klar suggested that a story on Reese might be more interesting.
"He told me everything about Perry," recalled Black of his conversation with Klar when he visited his hometown back around Christmas. "They had a really strong bond and when he told me the story he was emotional about it. I knew this was something I had to do."
He had to go through some hoops, since Walt Disney Pictures owned the copyright to the story. He found Disney had shelved the film, and after speaking to his lawyer, learned that since there was so much public knowledge on Reese, it was fine to pursue it.
Black said it will take $20,000 to get the ball rolling.
"'We had funding in place, but that went away," said Black. "What's transpired since then is that I've had some meetings with some folks in Hollywood, who are very excited about this story."
The efforts to raise funding for the screen writing is underway, as the initial step in the process moves the timetable of production forward.
Those interested can go to www.theperryreeseproject.com. In addition to learning about Reese's accomplishments, visitors can donate to funding the project.
"We're at zero right now," said Black. "We need the funding to get to the next level."
Black is hoping that in the upcoming eight weeks the money will be raised and the project can move to the next step.
"I have an idea of how I want the story told," said Black. "This is larger than me."