The Rock Tackles Football Film About High-School Gangbangers

Former pro ballplayer coaches troubled kids in 'Gridiron Gang.'

LOS ANGELES — Pro-wrestler-turned-actor the Rock was also once a pro football player (in the Canadian Football League), so he’s obviously elated to be making a football movie. That it’s also an inspirational film, something he’s never done, is gravy.

“It’s a true story that took place about 12, 13 years ago,” the Rock said of “Gridiron Gang.” “It’s about a probation officer who works inside of a prison camp for kids who decided to get these kids together, the gangbangers from SoCal who are locked up, and he challenged them: ‘Be a part of this football team.’ ”

The Rock is playing the probation officer, Sean Porter, who coaches the team with the help of a co-worker, played by Xzibit.

“They had never played before, and they go out the first time and get their asses kicked,” the Rock said. “After that loss, they said, ‘We’re not going to be considered losers again.’ And they go on and have this amazing season. One kid goes on to play college, one goes to the NFL. Some of them die because they go back to gang-related activities.”

Along with the struggles surrounding teaching the inmates, the Rock’s character also battles his own bosses for the permission to start the team, as well as coaches of other high school teams who are afraid to take the field against his.

“Gridiron Gang” is based on an Emmy-winning 1993 TV documentary by Lee Stanley, who is producing the feature film. The movie is being shot at Camp Kilpatrick, where the real story took place.

“I met [the real] Sean Porter for the first time today, and he was so moved that the story’s being told,” the Rock said.

“Gridiron Gang” is due in theaters next year. In the meantime, the Rock will hit the big screen October 21 in the movie adaptation of the popular video game “Doom.”

Well aware of the wobbly track record of past video-game-based movies, the Rock made sure the writing was up to par before signing on.

“It’s about an elite group of Marines who have to go to this planet, Mars, and we have to take care of the problem, so to speak,” the purposely vague Rock said. “It’s a cool role for me, and I end up being the baddest motherf—er on the planet.”

That, of course, is a far cry from the character Rock played in his last movie, “Be Cool” (see “Crossing Over With Chili Palmer”).

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