Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Disney and Walt Disney Pictures. I received an all-expense paid trip from Disney so that I could gather and share this information. However, all experiences and opinions are always 100% my own as this post is written by me in its entirety.
Many eons ago the opportunity to be an extra in a movie came knocking on my door. “But of course I’ll do it” erupted from my mouth even though no one was around to hear it. Okay so it wasn’t a speaking role, or even a solo, but I was going to be an EXTRA on a set!!! That set was Yankees Stadium in the NYC for a film called For Love of the Game. It starred Kevin Costner as a Detroit Tigers pitcher, playing against the beloved New York Yankees. Me along with hundreds of other die hard Yankees fans got to play the part of Yankees fans in the backdrop of the games. I don’t recall if Costner was even their that day or not, but I do recall telling everyone about how I was in a Costner movie….blushing and bragging all the way.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited by Disney to cover a press junket for McFarland, USA starring no other than Costner!!! YES, YES and YES, where do I sign up??? Immediately I began to relive and retell the story of how I was once in a Costner movie. Goosebumps running up and down my arms I danced through my house for the next month wondering what in the world am I going to ask Costner when I have the opportunity to now be in the same room with him. So I took to the blog, my Facebook page and even Twitter to ask you all if you had any questions. And you responded!!! For that, I thank you for your continued support.
Fast forward to the day of the interview. I picked out a dress – I don’t really do dresses – just for this day. All of my prepping and preparing didn’t prepare me for what happened next. As Costner walked into the room an eruption of applause.
As soon as he walked in he was already making jokes to put us at ease, “I thought I was gonna have some help” – referring to the empty chairs. “You know, there’s nothing more important or more demanding than a room full of mommies.”
Excitedly I jumped in with the first question….and quickly realized that in all my nervousness, despite Costner’s kind attempt to put us at ease, I had lost my manners. I blurted out “So what was the most rewarding part…” when Costner quickly and politely interrupted me to say “Good Morning” to all of us before wanting to begin the interview. Clearly his mama raised him with the same manners I try to raise my children with, despite my own shortfalls from time to time. Want to know something really funny? He actually ended up asking us the first question…he was asking us how we wanted to conduct the interview, with short answers or au natural, because he’s NEVER done this before!!! Yup, we were the first ever group of mamas – and papas – to interview Costner in this kind of setting.
And so I began…again… “So what was the most rewarding part of making this movie?”
Costner: I’ll tell you, I’ve had such a journey in the business. I wanted direction like probably everybody about what are you gonna do in your life. And when I found movies to me it was like recess. I wasn’t very good in school but when that bell went and I could go out and play and make up my own life and do whatever I wanted to do. That’s what I kind of wanted in life. Now that may sound like Peter Pan but that’s what I wanted. I wanted to be absolutely interested in everything that I did. And that began to happen for me. So as I conduct my career going forward, it’s obviously more than just movies. Movies are a small part of my life. They’re an important part. They’re the tip of the iceberg that the rest of the world sees, but they’re a very small part of my life.
The rewarding part about McFarland is that I don’t plan my life so much to the point that I miss something like McFarland, a little story about Latinos and a community that I actually participated against in high school. 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. Movies have been a joy for me. So one that would highlight this little town and there’s little McFarland’s everywhere in America, I like that. It’s a very important part of my filmography to be a part of this movie.
We wanted to know what, if any, kind of training he did to prepare himself for McFarland, USA.
Costner: Training? I hate running and so that’s why I enjoyed being the coach. One time I ran with them, and as you see in the movie, I quit. I played the coach part really well. I sat down and had a Coca Cola. I didn’t have to train for this really. It was pretty spelled out for me in the script, what I would do, which was, it was a sport I was unfamiliar with.
It was one I would try to have to educate myself with. It was one I would have to coach without facilities, that probably the schools we would be competing against, had. So I had to try to be resourceful, and the script gave me those opportunities to be that. So there was not really any training involved for me. There was just being heavily involved in these young men’s lives.
There was so much more about the movie than the finish line. The finish line’s for them. You can give young people something to shoot for and what we realize watching this movie is that when we do, they can somehow exceed beyond their own expectations. So we realize that’s actually in front of all our children. If you really want to get specific about it, it’s actually in front of us, too. Wherever you’re at in your life there is a chance to do something else in your life. We’re not done.
Costner made a statement that really resonated with me, “We’re not done at all. We’re here, you’re doing your job but what you want to be in your life is still in front of you. The same things that we offer our children, we shouldn’t be so ignorant to not offer up to ourselves.” Such a powerful statement and so true. As parents we work hard to give our children opportunities in life that we may not have had ourselves. But are we truly giving them our all if we aren’t making those same opportunities available to us, like continuing our education beyond what we have already obtained.
Getting to know the real-life inspiration behind his character, Jim White was an important part of learning the role Costner was going to play. He met him before shooting and White would even come to the set and he would talk and just take things in. For someone from a small town, this was all new to White said Costner, “all the equipment, all the people, all the trucks, wondering like everybody, who watches a movie for this first time, how come it takes this long?” While the film took a bit of creative license with White’s character, the story was left untouched for the most part. The outcome and the nine championships were 100% real. They wanted to tell McFarland’s story without making it unrecognizable; the story had to remain something people could relate to.
Costner mentioned having played against the McFarland school in high school. This really must be have a one in a million kind of chance to be able to star in a film that felt so close to home. Costner told us that he grew up around the Latino culture having lived in many of the cities where agriculture was a way of life for families. “And when I lived in Visalia, all the central valley is all agriculture, great big Latino communities. So I had competed with and fought with, and laughed with Mexican kids pretty much my whole life”, said Costner. Clearly the connection to the story behind the film was loud and clear for him.
As I noted above regarding Costner’s role in the sports film “For Love of the Game”, it seems he does his fair share of them. Knowing that he had played in sports when he was younger it seems natural for him to take on these kinds of roles. But McFarland, USA was different for him in other ways.
Costner: Well there’s a lot of sports films that come to me that I never do because they’re not very appealing. They maybe are too much about sports or they’re too obvious or they’re too whatever. When I run into one the best ones are about people obviously and there’s less sports in it than you would imagine. The ones that try to make a wall-to-wall sports movie might as well make a documentary or watch that on ESPN. We always are wanting to see ourselves in the movies. I think that if you saw yourself as being Maria Bello – she plays Costners wife in this movie, and I totally loved her in Coyote Ugly as the owner of the bar – you saw how honest her portrayal was of being shipped around because of her husband into a community that maybe didn’t look like it was gonna be so much fun. The women in our lives the ones that kind of almost make everything possible to come home to. For as impossible as everything it outside, to be able to come home and have your partner stand for you. I know my wife stood for me when I decided that I would make Black or White.
When you have the support of your family – even when they are doing it just for you – it can mean the world. That bit of support can help to propel you so much further in life. And for Costner it’s all about family! In fact, Costner recruited his own daughter Lily to sing during a scene in Black or White. And just as he believed in the power of the message in Black or White, it’s exactly how he feels about McFarland, USA “It helps us to go forward, certain movies, and a movie like McFarland is the same thing. We kind of see a reflection of ourselves and this community and these young people.” Costner definitely has a passion for life, community and people.
The interview ended with Costner thanking us, yes us, for giving him our time. Humble and down to earth are the only words that come to mind when I think of Costner. I made my way over to him after the group photo to say thank you. But that and a handshake was all I could muster. I had a one to one moment with him and I bombed it. All month-long while planning for this trip I kept prepping for the opportunity to tell him that I had been an extra in For Love of the Game. 3rd times a charm right? Hopefully I will get to see him again one day, until then I will keep looking at the hand that shook Kevin’s hand…
While you are waiting for McFarland, USA to come out (2/20), go see Black or White. Costner not only starred in it, but he also funded the movie because he believed so much in its powerful message. And besides, COSTNER said he wants you to go see it because he made it for YOU. Here is what he had to say word for word “I made it for you and I don’t mean that in a trivial sense at all. I made that movie for you because we’re living in this time where we don’t understand how to talk with each other, and things get said in that movie that are things that I think after you watch that movie, that you’ll wish you would’ve said and that tries to inform. So I do hope that you go see Black or White.” Yes, you heard it directly from Costner’s mouth (well my translation of the transcripts from the interview), he WANTS you to go see it. And let me add that I just saw it myself and it is totally #MamaApproved!
McFarland, USA opens in theaters everywhere on Friday, February 20th. You might even be able to catch the movie late at night on Thursday, so be sure to check with your local theater for showtimes. Get social online with the official movie hashtag #McFarlandUSA and my teams reporting #McFarlandUSAEvent to learn more and interact with other fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The race is on & #TeamSwag won the first leg! Join the McFarland, USA social race for a chance to win $2500! Currently #TeamYAAAS is in the lead for leg two of the race.