'5th Quarter' tackles real-life football drama


A college football player's tribute to his late brother inspired his team to a record season, and the story is headed for the big screen.

Ryan Merriman, Aidan Quinn and Andie MacDowell will play the Abbate family in Rick Bieber's indie drama "The 5th Quarter."

Following the family's devastation after 15-year-old Luke Abbate's death in a 2006 car crash and their decision to donate his organs to five people, Wake Forest junior Jon Abbate (Merriman) asked his coach to change his jersey number to Luke's number, 5. Just before the fourth quarter of each game, the linebacker began holding up five fingers, along with his parents Steven and Maryanne (Quinn and, in final negotiations, MacDowell) as they sat in Section 5 of the stadium.

Writer-director Bieber, producing through his Angel City Pictures, acquired rights to the Abbates' story and will begin filming Oct. 16 on and around the school's Winston-Salem, N.C., campus. Robert McCreary and Alan Cohen are exec producing the $5 million project. Stacy Earl and Michael Harding also star.

Merriman is repped by Gersh and Untitled; Quinn is with UTA/ Framework Entertainment; MacDowell is with ICM/Affirmative Entertainment. (partialdiff)