Have you heard of De La Salle High School? Their incredible real-life winning streak of 151 straight victories holds a story that begs to be told. The De La Salle football team was seemingly invincible under the coaching of Bob Ladouceur; a man who stressed faithful purpose and significance instead of numbers and titles. When the Game Stand Tall, starring acclaimed actor Jim Caviezel as Coach Lad, is opening this weekend across the nation.
Caviezel is well known to both Hollywood and the Christian movie community. Whether for his long-time role in the hit TV show Person of Interest, or his captivating portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, there’s no doubt that he is an actor of finesse and emotional conviction.
Sonoma Christian Home Contributor Dale Ward recently caught up with Caviezel to chat about his acting, inspiration, and role as Coach Bob Ladouceur in When the Game Stands Tall.
SCH: What appealed to you most about the Bob Ladouceur role?
JC: Bob Ladouceur was unusual in that most coaches focus on winning, and this guy focuses on their character, and from that, they ended up producing the biggest, longest winning streak in the history of all sports.
SCH: Where you aware of the winning streak before you were approached for the role?
JC: I was aware of the winning streak. You know, my father played for John Wooden at UCLA, and he had a long winning streak in college basketball and national championships. It’s something that had an impression on him – it had never been done before. Like Wooden and his great character – (Bob)Ladoucuer was able to get these boys on the team for twelve years to never lose a football game.
SCH: Did you meet Bob Ladoucuer and work with him prior to portraying him on the screen?
JC: I met him at the last football game of his career – his 399th win – at the state finals. They let me get in there and videotape him on the sidelines. He is very, very intense – and gentle at the same time. At halftime, I videotaped the team and the coaches, and how he would just listen.
He would say very few things, but what he did say was very calm and reassuring. And it mobilized the team in the second half. The players had commitment cards. They would get up in front of the team and talk and say, “This is who I am. Can you help me? Or can I help you?” And some times it was a painful revelation of their strengths, but especially their weaknesses, and laying themselves open and being vulnerable.
It is through this process that real growth can occur and change can happen. In the end they opened up that door to believe in themselves and each other, and that led to a big part of the brotherhood and the team. Egos must die in order for a team to live, and bringing in the love for each other. Love is the center of it all.
SCH: Working with a young cast, did you mentor them in the same fashion?
JC: Yes, I did it be very simply. The good actors that really passed the torch down to me, for example, when I did “The Count of Monte Cristo” with Richard Harris, he said, “Look – what we did was very good work.” Now I had to go and finish the last third of the movie in Malta.
And Richard Harris said, “Now if you go down there and don’t do what we did up here, we’ll look terrible, because what we did was so good, and people will see the difference and the film will fall apart.”
So I would explain that to the young actors. That there are many scenes that I have with each of you, but I do not have scenes between some of you. I’m going to be great with each of you, but if you chose to not bring in your best work, it will look bad. But I also expect you to boost each other and to work hard, and work on your scenes together, because you’re really going to carry this film.
It’s kind of like this: one times zero is zero, but a million times zero is zero as well. And so I can only do so much as a coach to make great players. So it really works hand in hand. And another film that I think exemplified this was “Hoosiers” with Gene Hackman and (Dennis) Hopper. They had great scenes, but if those kids don’t bring it, the story’s not believable.
SCH: Did you see that happening – the young actors working together and lifting each other up?
JC: Yes, because as you can see in the film, the results are there.
SCH: Can you talk about the dynamic of your character being a really good coach and how that was reflected (or not) in his role as a father?
JC: Well, I think he was a good father, because they are really good kids. And just because you are a stretched-thin father, and working left and right, and trying to provide and to find the best way to live a good example – that does not make you a bad father.
SCH: There are so many layers in this film (stressed-out living, fathering, heart disease, mentoring and teaching, boys to men, etc.), what do you hope the viewers take home with them?
JC: That champions are not created through a lack of adversary. Champions are guys who look adversary in the face and say, “Well, today is not the day that I’ll be defeated.” It’s not how hard you hit, but how hard you are going to get hit and decide to get back up again. This is something that is truly applicable in everyone’ life, and everyone can in some way bear and uplift one another.
To follow When the Game Stands Tall, check it out on Facebook
Want more details about the movie? Find it on the Christian Film Database
Interested in other upcoming Christian movies? Please read Hollywood Faces Dry Summer, but Dynamic Film “Holy Ghost” is Poised for Success
To learn more about this author, movie critic, and filmmaker, visit Dale Ward’s Official Website