I had the opportunity to interview the cast, director and the real life people portrayed in the movie McFarland, USA. I have shared a few of those interviews including Kevin Costner and the real life coach he portrays in this family film, Jim White and the real life Diaz brothers, David, Danny and Damacio. Based on a true story is just one reason why I encourage you and your family to see McFarland, USA.
Five Reasons to See McFarland USA
1. The story.
McFarland USA is based on the 1987 true story that follows novice runners from a small farm-rich yet economically challenged town in California’s Central Valley. “It’s a poor community. When you’re driving on 99, the freeway, and you blink and you’ll miss it. And there’s not much to do there. We don’t have the big malls. We don’t have actually any malls. (Laughing) And we don’t have the big grocery stores. And so, it’s just a fun place to be. But if it weren’t for sports, our kids would be lost, because it’s either, you know, education and sports or the streets,” shares Danny Diaz, one of the runners portrayed in the movie. Coach Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, builds a cross-country team to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. The heart of the film is the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic. With heart and determination that has you cheering them on, the unlikely band of runners eventually knock those odds to not succeed out of the picture building not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Giving inspiration to what many of us take for granted and that is living the American Dream.
2. Kevin Costner.
Director Niki Caro puts what it was like to work with Kevin.
What was it like working with Kevin Costner, “It’s awesome.” she shares laughing, “He’s so handsome. He’s one of the great actors. He’s certainly a bonafide movie star. If that wasn’t enough he’s a really good director. He’s a mountain of a man, you know. In every way. And yet there’s nobody more humble. I couldn’t have wished for a better partner. Collaborator, his skill, his experience. His wisdom. And just his decency as a man. Breathtaking. And, you know, it would have been enough if my expectations had been OK.”
“The movie star, Kevin Costner, is gonna come onto my set and he’s gonna do this thing. We should all be so lucky, right? I hope because of the sort of director that I am that he will show up as an actor. And not bring kinda the movie star stuff with him. But not only did he show up as an actor, but he showed up as himself and the man he is. So humble and so generous to those boys. It was very, very moving for me to watch how fatherly he was with them. And equally what the boys did to him. You know, they really bought out his tenderness and his humility.”
And I’m so happy. I watched the movie and I know that the relationship you see on screen is totally genuine. Now when I called cut, he didn’t go off and get in his trailer. He was still, you know, hanging out with the boys. You know, subtly guiding them, not imposing his will ever on the production or on me, despite his experience. But just supporting those kids as young men. Even right back to when they first met. We had a table read. So these kids come and there’s all of the Disney people and there’s Kevin. And he just said to them, ‘You boys, what you’re about to experience you will remember for the rest of your lives. This is about to be one of the most important and defining things you will experience as a human being. And enjoy it, you know.’ What a guy. There’s a long answer, wasn’t it? I could talk all day.
3. The cast.
The cast interview will be up next week, and it is one of my all time favorite interviews. Without sharing too much in this post for I want to be able to share their complete interview, I have to share a few pieces so you can see why the cast is simply so amazing.
Carlos Pratts, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Michael Aguero, Ramiro Rodriguez have become real life brother through their experience of making McFarland, USA. “Yeah, but definitely the, the chemistry you see on screen is, is exactly what we are in real life, you know, if not more, because we love each other as brothers and we, we never lost that connection. When they said cut, it was still there,” Rafael shares.
With Ramiro and Michael being the two members of the cast actually being from McFarland, imagine the excitement of being part of something so big for their little town. Being their first acting jobs and having personal ties makes the emotions and connections to their characters and the heart of the movie to life.
Michael explained, “I’m actually from McFarland as well. And you know, Thomas Valles, which Carlos Pratts plays, he was actually my running coach since I was a little kid, you know, since I was in elementary. And, I mean, this guy is just so humble. I mean, he always took time off of his job and he would go travel with his runners, you know. He would take them to Oregon, just anywhere around the nation just to go seem them run. And the Diaz brothers, they still live there. I mean, to see all the support that they still have for the community is just amazing.”
4. The culture.
Being Latino myself, I really appreciate the culture. From family, to food, to work ethic and even the accents, the movie makers made it authentic. Kevin Costner explained why this was important to him.
“I played against McFarland in baseball. I lived in Visalia, up in the central valley so the important thing for me was that I was able to participate in this movie and highlight a culture that we see all the time, driving down our highways, looking off to the left and right, and somehow we just keep driving, right? We’re not supposed to text and we’re not supposed to stop our car to look. But that is how the food gets to us.”
“And movies, you know, have been a joy for me. And so one that would highlight this little town – there’s little McFarland’s everywhere in America, you know, I like that. For me it’s a very important part of my filmography to be a part of this movie.”
5. It’s safe for the whole family.
I think that the importance of making his story told as true to real life as possible included keeping it clean, Coach White shared, “When Disney got to read the story we were thrilled. So happy that they had it, because then we knew that it wouldn’t have any sex and cussing and cigarettes and this type of thing, you know.”
And it doesn’t. McFarland, USA is all that you want from an inspirational film. It has an incredible story. An authentic cast full of heart. This is the kind of story that shows what American Dreams are made of and that anything is possible with determination and perseverance. Go see it! You will be so glad you did!
McFARLAND, USA is rated PG and opens in theaters everywhere on February 20th!
*I was invited by Disney to attend the press junket for McFarland, USA. All opinions are my own.