"Real stories and real people. Go to the real community. Ask for their collaboration. Keep my eyes and my ears open and my mouth shut." That was filmmaker Niki Caro's statement as to how she works best as applied to her latest effort, McFARLAND, USA, which opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. After being in-development through several companies over the years, the WHALE RIDER director took the reigns after it had landed at Disney some years back, facing down the daunting task of bringing to life the true story of one of California's greatest sports dynasties - one layered with cultural and economic intricacies. After numerous writers tried their hand at reworking the script, McFARLAND, USA finally took shape from a screenplay by Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson, with Kevin Costner (whom I interviewed here) returning to the sports film genre to inhabit the role of Jim White (interviewed here) - the coach that led a team of novice runners to a cross-country championship in 1987, laying the groundwork for more to come in the decades that have followed.
There have been plenty of "based on a true story" inspirational sports films over the years, but it's a rare feat to be truly inspired, and come face-to-face with the real-life subjects whose story has received the Hollywood treatment. For me, that's exactly what happened earlier this month after visiting the Disney lot to attend a screening of McFARLAND, USA, the new film from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (out this Friday). While the film itself is no doubt special, my connection to it was made stronger after meeting Coach Jim White (played by Kevin Costner, who I interviewed here) along with the Diaz brothers - David, Damacio and Danny, all of whom will see their lives hit theaters everywhere this weekend.
"There's nothing more American than parents wanting more for their children."
That quote, spoken by actor/director/musician Kevin Costner to his McFARLAND, USA director Niki Caro was a perfect statement to encompass not only his latest film, but the overall aura around it - both on-screen and off. Based on the true story of Coach Jim White and his underdog team of cross-country runners in 1987, it would be easy to look at McFarland, USA as just another come-from-behind sports film... and that would be a very wrong assumption to make.
Around this same time last year, I sat here in my office looking at the calendar and realized that my travel plans for the year were shaping-up to look an awful lot like routing for a tour. With "The Rock Father" as my moniker, and serving as publisher of this site of the same name, everything came into focus that I should look at my adventures as just that, and the #RockFatherTour was born. By the end of 2014, I'd logged more miles than any other of my 38 years, and my work had morphed from a "U.S." to a "North American" Tour. Of those missions, four of them led me to The Golden State, one of which was my first of the year.
To kick off the 2015 Rock Father Tour, I'm excited and privileged to announce that I'm going back to where it all started almost exactly one year ago, Walt Disney Studios and ABC. My old pal, Mickey Mouse has been kind enough to fund another big adventure (disclosure and all) on which I will be part of a group of 25 entertainment writers and bloggers that will have the opportunity to meet with the talent and creatives behind several new projects from the Disney family of companies including McFARLAND, USA (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures), TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST (DisneyToon Studios), BIG HERO 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios), FRESH OFF THE BOAT (ABC) and BAD HAIR DAY (Disney Channel). While I'll be bringing back some in-depth coverage to be posted as features in the weeks ahead, I'm inviting all of YOU to follow along and take part in the journey online as it happens. Want to know the details?
Dig the artwork of Sabine Wren on STAR WARS REBELS? Then you'll want to check out the new book, STAR WARS REBELS: SABINE - MY REBEL SKETCHBOOK. Written by Daniel Wallace with Illustrations by Annie Stoll (as Sabine), the 96-page book follows the similarly in-universe REBEL JOURNAL by EZRA BRIDGER that was released last fall, offering kids of all-ages a look inside the mind of one of their favorite new characters from the STAR WARS canon. Set to hit the streets this February, check out some preview pages and the official boilerplate below...
All is not well in the MARVEL Universe... at least not in the latest trailer for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. We've got THOR vs. TONY STARK... Stark as IRON MAN vs. HULK... and ULTRON vs EVERYBODY in what looks to be an incredible cinematic showdown for the AVENGERS in their second full-blown adventure, hitting theaters on May 1 via MARVEL Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Take a look at this superhero goodness below, right here on THE ROCK FATHER...