Stephan James wants college football players paid in Rousing trailer
National Champions highlights the high-stakes intrigue behind the scenes of college football.
In PEOPLE’s exclusive first look at the star-studded sports drama, quarterback LeMarcus, played by Stephan James (If Beale Street could speak), takes a stand against the college football system and calls for student-athletes to be paid.
The boycott of him and his teammate (Alexander Ludwig) prompts their well-paid head coach (JK Simmons) – and others who stand to lose something amid the pressure to pay – to scramble to find a solution.
“I’ve been a die-hard sports fan my whole life,” James, 27, told PEOPLE.
“Part of me still believes that one day I’ll turn pro,” he adds, “But the truth is that acting and sports are synonymous. It takes hard work and teamwork. with everyone working feverishly towards a goal. I think that’s part of what made this movie so special to make. “
RELATED: Uzo Aduba On The Cutest Coaches She Has Ever Had & Their Lasting Impact On Her Life & Career
Courtesy of STX Films
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Oscar winner Simmons, 66, says, “Being a huge college football fan (Go Bucks! Go Griz!) [Ric Roman Waugh] I was hooked by the combination of passion, intelligence and fairness in the story. “
The film also stars Emmy winner Uzo Aduba, Lil Rel Howery, Tim Blake Nelson, Andrew Bachelor, Jeffrey Donovan, David Koechner, Kristin Chenoweth, and Timothy Olyphant. It was directed by Ric Roman Waugh and written by Adam Mervis. Producers are Basil Iwanyk and Brendon Boyea of Thunder Road Films, and Greg Economou of Game1.
Aduba, 40, ran on the track in college, speaking to PEOPLE earlier this month about her hard-hitting coaches during her time, the husband-and-wife duo named Bruce and Lesley Lehane.
“Even though we were there as athletes, they really put in our minds how to take the sport and apply it to become good, strong humans,” Aduba said.
Courtesy of STX Films
“They loved their athletes, and not just because they loved the sport. It was more important than that to them,” added the actress. “They were talking about focusing on your own running and the idea of not focusing on distractions in the left or right lanes. They showed me that you can lead with a nurturing hand and gave me helped recognize that we are all part of a bigger sum. For the machine to work, respect and care must be given to all parts, large and small. It is kindness. “
National Champions is in theaters on December 10th.