Caviezel brings authenticity to coaching role in When the Game Stands Tall
The sports drama When the Game Stands Tall opened in theatres last week. It stars Jim Caviezel who is best known for roles in The Passion of The Christ, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the CBS crime drama Person of Interest.
In the film Caviezel plays De La Salle High School head football coach, Bob Ladouceur, who led the Spartans on an unprecedented record of 151 straight wins. The film chronicles the season when the team breaks the streak – they suffer their first loss in over ten seasons – it is a powerful and moving character study with “authentic messages” as Caviezel told me in our interview. Authenticity is a something Caviezel would repeatedly bring up as the distinguishing factor between this film and the countless sports movies that miss the boat. He explained that many sports films get it wrong due to inaccurate game depictions, overdone sports clichés, or simply lacking the real spirit of the game.
Caviezel knows what it means to be authentic in sports – as he is no stranger to athletics himself- whether on film or off. Caviezel’s father played college basketball at UCLA under the legendary Coach John Wooden. Caviezel’s brother-in-law is Scott Linehan the passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Caviezel himself was a basketball standout at John F. Kennedy High School and went on to play in college (a severe injury prematurely ended his career). In fact, Caviezel is routinely invited to coach at Five Star Basketball camp which is the nation’s premiere summer camp for youth basketball talent development (for example: Five-Star alums include Michael Jordan, Grant Hill, LeBron James and Kevin Durant). If personal history was not enough to bring authenticity to the role – Caviezel also had played the title role in Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, a biopic on the golf icon.
“What I look for in roles is authenticity,” Caviezel reminded me towards the end of our conversation. “Believability is everything. I remember looking at film when I was doing the Bobby Jones movie, and the golf instructor told me, ‘If you are looking at that grip when you pick up that golf club, everybody is going to know you don’t play that game.'”
He brought that level of attention to detail when preparing for the Ladouceur role. “I got to go in the locker room and literally tape the conversations,” he added. “What I was fascinated about him [Ladouceur] was that he didn’t say much. I knew if I could get that down I might have a chance. I was at checks and balances with him all the time.”
“What he was about was getting young men to be men of virtue, courage, to be dependent on one another,” explained Caviezel. “At one point he said, ‘We’re not asking you to play a perfect game; what we’re asking of you, and what you should be asking of yourselves, is to give a perfect effort on every play from snap to whistle.'”
Caviezel was more impressed on how Coach Ladouceur taught his players to be good men rather than focus on the winning. To Ladoucer, football was just a game. The film shows this contrast between the win at all costs mentality that often consumes coaches and Ladouceur’s alternative emphasis on uplifting messages.
“The [film] focus is not on winning but on virtues,” Caviezel added. “Turning these boys from boys to men, and from those virtues, courage, all of the adversity that they have to undergo, that one has to in life, that that focus on the love aspect, I think, is a universal message that will transcend to all people regardless of whether they play a sport or not.”
If Caviezel and the film captures this- it can’t get any more authentic than that.
When the Game Stands Tall production budget was $15 million. On opening weekend it earned $8,381,509.