Chess movie: Life of a King

by ChessBase
2/14/2014 – Hollywood actor Cuba Gooding Jr., who won an Oscar for his performance in Jerry Maguire, is starring in a film about chess. It describes the true life of Eugene Brown who started playing chess during an 18-year incarceration for bank robbery founded a chess club aimed at getting kids off the streets and working towards lives they never believed they were capable of. Inspiring.

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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.

Cuba Gooding Jr. as 'Eugene' and Dennis Haysbert as 'Searcy' in Life of a King,
Picture courtesy of Millennium Entertainment

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.

Cuba Gooding

Cuba Gooding, Jr. (born January 2, 1968) is best known for his portrayal of Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His "Show Me The Money" line in the movie became a nationwide catchphrase. The role elevated him to superstar status, as many of Hollywood's top producers began to "show him the money" to appear in their films. Since then Cuba has managed to keep busy with a wide range of roles alongside many of Hollywood's biggest stars. Most recently, he won critical support for his portrayal of a mentally handicapped man in the heartwarming film Radio (2003), another movie about football. In 2002, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [Full bio at IMDB]

Life Of A King Official Trailer #1 (2014)

Review (excerpts) by Daaim Shabazz

The movie starts off with chess being thrust in the forefront as Brown plays game after game (between cells) against his mentor “Searcy” played by Dennis Haysbert, an actor known for his distinctive resonant voice. On the eve of Brown’s release from a 17-year sentence, Searcy gives him a hand-carved black king as a permanent symbol of life’s lessons. He tells Brown, “Take care of the king. Everything else follows.”

“Life of a King” is a story that is common to those of us in the Black community. We have recently heard of “Queen of Katwe” and “Brooklyn Castle“; however, many of these stories go untold because there are few outlets to highlight these accomplishments. Of course The Chess Drum is one such place, but this movie will go a long way in bringing to light the fact that chess has brought social capital to impoverished communities around the world. [See more at Chess Drum]

Eugen Brown

Born in Washington DC, Eugene Brown is 58 years old. He attended the inner city, District of Columbia Public Schools, where he was diagnosed as requiring social adjustment classes. His anti-social behavioral lead to early brushes with Juvenile Justice Law Enforcement, resulting in early incarceration at correctional youth institutions as a teen, and prison times as an adult.

Eugene started playing chess while he was incarcerated in federal prison following a botched bank robbery. Chess was a good distraction from the dreary routine and depressing world around him. Today he is a father, grandfather, a real estate agent, and the Founder and CEO of The Big Chair Chess Club. Eugene Brown believes that having six and seven-year-olds learn to play chess is one way to set them on the right course.

A little over a year ago Huffington Post columnist Lubomir Kavalek (front right in the grey suit) gave a talk at the Cosmos Club and witnessed a match between 27 members played against a similar squad from the Big Chair Chess Club – led by Eugene Brown (front left with hat). Kavalek reported on this in his October 2012 column.

Life of a King interview

The original ABC NightLine interview that inspired the movie

MSNBC interview with Cuba Gooding and Eugene Brown

The Academy Award winning actor and the real thing

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