Kerry Rhodes peels off an expensive pair of aviator sunglasses as he steps out of a waiting SUV at the Andaz 5th Avenue cafe in New York, the city that drafted him nearly a decade ago. "New Yorkers like to pretend they don't care that they've read about you in the papers, but they do. They do," Rhodes says, without noticing two businessmen rubbernecking their heads in his direction. Rhodes spent five seasons with the Jets, earning All-Pro honors and the highest salary of any safety in the league before heading to Arizona. But with his time on the field likely behind him, Rhodes now lives in Los Angeles, a city without a football team, but one that openly embraces the showbiz status that earned him the nickname "Hollywood." There, he's spent the last two years producing Gone in an Instant, a documentary that chronicles the life and career of fellow athlete Antoine Walker, a three-time NBA All-Star who made headlines when he was caught writing bad checks in Vegas after losing the $110 million he had earned during his pro career. As a fellow sportsman, few seem more qualified than Rhodes to handle the player's story with the amount of class and compassion it deserves. He may be done with the NFL, but with a number of projects in the works with his production company, there are plenty in Hollywood who are happy to have the company of Kerry Rhodes.
Did you always know making films would be your career after football? I've always wanted to do film. I've had a love for acting, writing, and producing. It was something that I planned to do regardless, and then when my football career was over, I believe it was a blessing that I got to do a project like this that hits so close to home. I never set out to be a documentary filmmaker, but this opportunity is such a natural move. I met and got to know Antoine and we had a great connection right off the bat.
What made Antoine Walker the right subject for your film? I loved football, but my first love was always basketball. I've followed the it as a fan for years, so I knew who Antoine was since the beginning. I went to Louisville and he was in Kentucky, so I followed his career from there and throughout. It wasn't until later that I became familiar with the rest of his story, though. I was watching TV and saw his mug shot on the screen. People were talking about how he lost all of his money. I was shocked. $110 million? That doesn't make any sense, but I was playing football at the time, so I didn't have long to really dwell on it. Later, my business partner Anthony Holt suggested that we look into his story to potentially tell and I regained that interest all over again. I knew that the film wouldn't be compelling unless we had Antoine on our side. We started the conversation with him and he seemed open to going there, and talking about everything. We just ran with it.
How long did the film take to produce, from concept to completion? It's about a span of two years to get everything finished. We had to figure out an arc that was interesting. People are going to want to know where he is now. Where is he trying to go? The story is in full bloom now. He's cleared all of his debts, except for his casino debt, because of the laws in effect in Nevada, he can't get it off the books. He's still $700,000 in the hole. But it's not $8 million in the hole. He's moving forward with his life.
There's no doubt that some of the subjects in his story were painful for Antoine to talk about. How did you get him to be completely candid? Did you feel like he backed away from discussing certain topics? He didn't fight us on anything. He wasn't withholding from us at all. There is shame there of course. He lost a lot of money. I think he realizes now he has a story to tell that is powerful and can help people. To have someone that is that open, and isn't worried about what people are going to say about him is a true gift. The first screening we did of the film was in Boston; this is a place where he was known as a great player - an icon. It took a big man to look those people in the eye and show where he