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‘Person of Interest’ shares faith at movie screening

By JOANNE FOX
joannef@scdiocese.org

CHARLOTTE, NC – Just because actor Jim Caviezel did not play football, does not mean he hasn’t had personal experience with team sports.

“I played basketball at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School (Burien, Wash.),” he told attendees at the Catholic Media Conference, June 19, following a pre-screening of his upcoming movie, “When the Game Stands Tall.”

“My senior year, we went to state,” continued the star of TV’s “Person of Interest.” “We were playing the No. 1 team. I remember the fearlessness we felt. I remember how much I loved my teammates.”

“When the Game Stands Tall” tells the remarkable story of legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur, who is portrayed by Caviezel.

Ladouceur took De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., from obscurity to a phenomenal 151-game winning streak over 12 seasons that shattered all records for any American sport. When the record-breaking streak ends for the Catholic school, Ladouceur and his players must adapt.

Caviezel was drawn to Ladouceur’s temperament.

“I look for redeemable characters,” he said. “I found it fascinating that his character was in a very negative place and a dark position and he says, ‘No more!’.”

Known for his devout Catholic faith, Caviezel pointed out that affects the roles he chooses.

“I think taking on those roles tells the truth better than anyone else,” he said.

No stranger to cinema or television – since 2011 Caviezel has starred as John Reese on the CBS crime drama series “Person of Interest” – the 45-year-old acknowledged he learned something new while filming “When the Game Stands Tall.”

“I never played football, so I found out how hard they really hit,” he said with a soft smile.

“But the most difficult part of the film took place in the church,” he added, referring to the funeral scene of one of the players at which Ladouceur is asked to speak.

Caviezel had the opportunity to meet Ladouceur during filming and said in the introduction to the coach, “I learned I have a new friend.”

“Bob wanted the movie to be as good and true to the actual events and himself as he could,” he said. “He stressed that level of authenticity had to be there. So, it shouldn’t be about me as an actor, but rather Bob as a person.”

To achieve that portrayal, Caviezel drew from his faith.

“You start to build a foundation of the character outside the script that’s been laid down,” he said. “There’s a danger in just imitation. I’ve found my foundation has always been my faith.”

“When the Game Stands Tall” is based on Neil Hayes' 2003 nonfiction book of the same name. Producer David Zelon found the book while cleaning out the lockers for his son’s high school football team.

The producer of the faith-film “Soul Surfer” approached Sony Pictures with the idea of creating the story into the movie.

“I just felt it fit the bill on so many levels,” Zelon said at the same pre-screening discussion. “I also come out of a sports background, since my father played for John Wooden.”

That made for a humorous exchange between Zelon and his father.

“I believe my dad exclaimed, ‘You got Jesus Christ to play Bob Ladouceur?!?’,” Zelon said, amidst a lot of laughter, referencing Caviezel’s role as the Son of God in the 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ.”

However, Zelon insisted “When the Game Stands Tall” was much more than just an examination of one’s faith or merely a football saga.

“It is hard to find these kinds of stories,” he said. “You are looking at the drama of relationships. There’s Bob’s relationship with his wife, the balancing of work with family. And many times, one fails.”

Caviezel also noted Ladouceur’s struggles with faith in the movie.

“Bob’s character works his way into darkness and says, ‘Enough,’ and that gives me meaning,” he said.

“Catholics see the corpus on the cross and remember the words, ‘Thy will be done.’ That’s makes them scared.

People want to sanitize the crucifixion and that’s not good. This movie (When the Game Stands Tall) should change lives, impact lives. You want it to say something.”

Starring Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown and Laura Dern, “When the Game Stands Tall,” (rated PG) distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment, opens in theaters Aug. 22. http://whenthegamestandstall-movie.tumblr.com/

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