You may not know Mike Rich by name, but chances are you’ve seen his work.
Mike Rich was working as a news reporter at a Portland radio station in the mid-1990s when he decided to turn his dream of writing a screenplay into reality.
Setting aside a couple of free hours each day, he wrote “Finding Forrester,” a story that delves into the relationship between an inner-city teen and a reclusive writer.
After unproductive attempts to contact agents, production companies and studios, Rich entered the play in the Nicholl Fellowship competition sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“The first letter I received said congratulations, you’re a quarter-finalist. That was validation. It put me in the top 220 of 4,500 entrants,” he says. “That’s where I thought it would end. Then came a letter saying I was a semi-finalist and then a finalist and finally one of five fellows.”
After that, interest developed quickly. Columbia purchased the script and Sean Connery agreed to play Forrester. At that point, Rich “thought they would just go off and make the movie.” He was wrong. Six rewrites later, it was shot.
Over the past eight years, the OSU College of Business alumnus has followed “Finding Forester” with “The Rookie,” “Radio” and “Miracle,” all successful movies.
“I always start with character. The audience needs to care about the people,” Rich says.
In “Miracle,” the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s historic upset of the Soviet Union, “you want to get the audience to the point where they don’t care that they know how it’s going to end. They want to see how it gets there.”
Look for more from Rich. “Manhunt,” an adaptation of a historical thriller about the search for John Wilkes Booth, is being filmed; “Invincible,” the story of Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale, a bartender who tried out for the team as a kicker and made it, is set for release later this year; and “Nativity,” a story leading up to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, has been purchased by New Line Cinema.
Despite all this activity, Rich keeps his life in perspective. He lives in Beaverton, Ore., with his wife and three children. “My son plays high school football,” he says. “I catch every game I can. When it’s done, it’s done, and you don’t get another chance.”