SEQUIM, Wash. — Sequim may not be the first place you think of when it comes to a big movie premiere, but that's exactly what a group of high school students is lobbying for after hearing that George Clooney is making a movie about a hometown hero, Joe Rantz.
Clooney is directing a movie based on the book "The Boys in the Boat," which is the true story of the University of Washington crew team and the eight rowers that fought to win gold at the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin. Rantz is the main character in the story.
Known as Hitler's Olympics just years before the Second World War, the team narrowly beat Italy and Germany.
“They took the stroke rate higher than they’d ever had it before and at the end of the race they won it by six-tenths of a second,” said Joe Rantz's daughter, Judy Rantz-Willman.
Not wanting her father's story to be forgotten, Rantz-Willman went to her neighbor who was a published author, Daniel James Brown, to see if he would take on her father's story.
"If he could put me back in dad's story... it would be like he was alive again, it would be so cool," Rantz-Willman said.
Joe’s story is not just about winning gold. The book deals with his struggle of being abandoned by his family and left in Sequim.
“It's about the human adventure and finding stuff inside yourself that helps you become who you can be,” Rantz-Willman said.
Rantz-Willman went on to speak about her father overcoming his difficult childhood.
“When they finally left him in Sequim he had two choices he could make," Rantz-Willman said. "He could consider himself a victim and live his life as a victim or he could consider himself a survivor and live his life as a survivor. He chose to live his life as a survivor.”
Joe Rantz’s story inspired generations after him, especially students at his alma mater, Sequim High School.
Students in the school’s Interact Club made a TikTok asking George Clooney to host a movie premiere in their hometown where the book is centered around.
“Why not have it in the place where Joe Rantz is from?" said Danika Chen, senior and Chair of the Interact Club. "He played the banjo in the auditorium. and he went to school in the building that we're in right now."
The motivation is not about a Hollywood premiere, but rather to have the proceeds go towards the Joe Rantz Rotary Youth House and help other homeless youth like Joe.
“It’s just being able to help people that we know that are struggling in our school, help them succeed and move on and do better for themselves like Joe Rantz did," Chen said. "He was homeless, and then he went on to win the gold medal at the Olympics, and really make a name for himself. We just want to give everyone the opportunity to do that."
The TikTok said there are 160 homeless kids in Sequim and 50 unaccompanied high schoolers who are couch surfing or living out of their cars.
“Where everything started is where the movie is going to start," said Ayden Humphries, Interact president and senior at Sequim High School. "The nuance there is just amazing. Then, all the funds will also be going to support kids in the same situation that Joe was in. It's really impactful, not only for the community but as a deeper meaning as a whole."
The video is racking up tens of thousands of views and counting and did catch the attention of George Clooney's production team. The students said they are working on something for Fall 2023.
“It's pretty amazing," said Julie Jack, Interact co-chair and senior at Sequim High School. "We kind of just started out just making this little video and then overnight, it reached a bunch of people and all the comments were so positive. I think it just made us feel really good and feel like we can actually make an impact."
The Interact Club works with local Rotary groups to raise awareness about multiple issues and make a lasting impact, like Joe.
“Of course, the most important thing to take from this story is don't give up,” Rantz-Willman said.