Teamwork was at the top of everyone’s mind Monday as the cast and creators – and real-life inspiration of “When the Game Stands Tall” arrived at the ArcLight for the film’s premiere. Inspired by the true story of football coach Bob Ladouceur, the De La Salle High School Spartans and their legendary 151-game winning streak, the film takes viewers off the field and into the lives of the players and Coach Lad, as his players lovingly call him.
“It’s such a great story about what it is to be on a real sports team,” said Matthew Daddario, who plays Danny Ladouceur, the son of the coach. “I don’t think I’ll ever be part of a project that is quite as meaningful to my life. This is a very special story.”
As they walked the astroturf-esque green carpet complete with goal posts, the entire team gushed over their pride in being the first to tell the story, and remarked over what they learned from Coach Lad and his team in the process.
Actor Joe Massingill told Variety that he had been aware of De La Salle’s story from his own time in high school, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to combine his love of acting and football for the film after having to quit playing in college for medical reasons. “I pulled out all the stops,” he said of prepping for the role that reaffirmed to him that hard work pays off. “A lot of the stuff we do as kids in sports and in school is not about achieving some fame status or professional sports status – it’s about learning about accountability, responsibility and what hard work is.”
“We need to know that we’re here for each other to help us get back up,” added Ser’darius Blain about the film’s message. Blain said that working on the project also brought the actors closer together and that he and his castmates now spend time together off the clock. “It’s a true sense of brotherhood that we’ve been able to build throughout this process. It’s an amazing story of endurance and perseverance, brotherhood and family.”
Jim Caviezel, who stars as Coach Ladouceur saw a bit of his own past in the film. As a high school basketball player Caviezel and his team had gone to see the 1986 pic “Hoosiers” before playing a big game. “That night we played our hearts out and beat them, and I felt in my career if I could ever find something like ‘Hoosiers’ to be a part of…” he mused, “and this was that movie.”
“The coach never focused on winning,” remarked Caviezel, “he would say ‘I’m not asking you to play a perfect game, what you should be asking of yourselves is to give a perfect effort.’”
“He doesn’t just coach, he teaches,” said the film’s director Thomas Carter. “He’s interested in building character in these kids, not just winning football games, and that’s more rare than it should be.”
Coach Lad himself and his best friend and assistant coach Terry Eidson walked the carpet, still reeling over the excitement.
“The first thing we thought was ‘This might get made into a movie? Why would you want to do that?’” laughed Eidson.
“I think we’re really lucky to have our story told,” added Ladouceur, still just as humble as he appears on screen. “There’s hundreds of coaches out there who put together some great teams and programs that probably do the same things we do. We just kind of got plucked out and singled out for that and I hope we represent those coaches well.”
Real-life highlights from Lad’s coaching career with the Spartans played throughout the film’s credits while excerpts from the pic lined the walls of Lure at the afterparty, further proving that the film and the story is not about winning – it’s about being part of the team.
Tri Star releases “When the Game Stands Tall” on Aug. 22.
(Pictured: Producer David Zelon, clockwise from top, Ser’Darius Blain, Alexander Ludwig, director Thomas Carter, Matthew Daddario, Terry Eidson, Bob Ladouceur, Jim Caviezel and Jessie Usher at the “When the Game Stands Tall” premiere)