Championsthe 2018 English adaptation of the Spanish film Campeonesmarks the solo directorial debut of Bobby Farrelly, one half of the legendary Farrelly Brothers.
It’s been almost 30 years since the pair hit the golden ticket as co-directors Dumb and Dumber. While Peter Farrelly went solo at the box office with the 2018 Oscar Green Bookbobby has kept his directorial powder dry until now.
“His first movie without me won an Oscar. What does that tell you?” joked the manager. So what changed? “I thought if I’m going to do it myself, I’d better pick a good story, and Woody Harrelson brought me that. He saw the original film and fell in love with it.”
The actor, who also produces the film, plays a fiery minor league baseball coach who is destined for the big time, but finds himself in trouble with the law and is ordered to do community service by the court. This means he takes the helm of a team with mental disabilities and tries to secure a place in the Special Olympics. Champions reunites Harrelson and Farrelly, who previously collaborated on the bowling comedy, Kingpin.
“I love a sports movie or TV show, even sports, but I can get invested when I know more about the players or their families or where they’re from,” explained Kaitlin Olson, who plays Alex, the film’s protagonist. . “Since Champions Being a sports movie, sure, it’s a basketball movie, but it’s a movie about believing in yourself and finding small wins in life, not just the big win.”
Did it inspire her to follow in the footsteps of her Wrexham AFC co-owner husband Rob McElhenney and invest in a sports club?
“No,” the actress laughed. “I’m not going to buy a basketball team in a foreign country. I’m pretty well surrounded by sports in my life right now, so I’m good.”
unexpectedly, Champions it is the first time that Olson, whose character is Harrelson’s love interest and the sister of one of his players, has a leading role in a comedy film. It’s something she liked and was also grateful for.
“Thank you so much to Bobby for giving me this opportunity,” he recalls. “I was a theater major, I did a lot of dramatic stuff growing up, but on camera, I’ve only done very comedic first takes. It was exciting to read this dynamic character who is funny and strong, but fiercely protective of her brother and loves him and her family more than anything.”
“That combination of comedy and vulnerability can sometimes feel forced, and it didn’t feel that way in the script. Bobby did a great job of pulling that off.”
Champions It’s not the first time Hollywood has remade a foreign-language comedy, which it knew had potential pitfalls and could be a tough sell to moviegoers.
“It’s especially true in the world of comedy where so much of it has to do with phrasing and stuff like that. Comedy doesn’t always translate, but this movie is more than that,” the director mused. One thing he and screenwriter Mark Rizzo resisted was changing the ending to please the audience.
“We kept the original ending. Sometimes you can’t hear the audience,” the director explained. “You have to surprise them a little bit by not giving them exactly what they expect; otherwise, they’re one step ahead of you. You can bring them to that point of satisfaction in different ways, and hopefully that’s what we’ve done here. “
In casting the athletes that Harrelson’s character takes on, Farrelly was inspired by the example of Kurt Russell’s 2004 film. Miraclea film about the 1980 USA Olympic hockey.
“They did such a good job using real hockey players and teaching them how to act,” the director explained. “They could go to Hollywood and get a bunch of actors and say, ‘Oh, let’s pretend you’re hockey players,’ but everyone in the audience would know these guys weren’t the real deal.”
He continued, “We went to all the coaches, all the basketball leagues, Special Olympics and Best Buddies, and we started from there, looking for players with intellectual disabilities. “We asked them, ‘Do you have any great players or people who just love the game who are interested in auditioning for a movie?’ and we were inundated with people who wanted to be a part of it. From that, we found our ten who became our team, our friends.”
Champions was shot mostly on location in Winnipeg, Canada, a place unaccustomed to hosting the cast and crew of a Hollywood film, but Olson said they couldn’t have been more welcoming.
“First of all, this stereotype that Canadians are wonderful people is very true,” Olson confirmed. “Everyone was so sweet and welcoming. Making a film like this, it’s a blessing to be away from home because you can jump in completely. for my kids and that’s helpful.”
While filming was underway, one of the women who played the friends turned 19, so the cast and crew had “this giant dance party.”
“We all joked that it was better than any Hollywood party we’d ever been to, but we meant it. It was so great. We were our own little community for a few weeks and it was very special,” the actress confessed. .
One of Olson’s favorite moments on set was away from the basketball court filming a scene where her character and her on-screen brother Johnny, played by Kevin Iannucci, do karaoke in their car to the iconic Chumpawamba anthem.Thunderstorm.”
“I know that whatever song they had written in the script we couldn’t get the rights to, so we brainstormed alternatives that we could sing and this came up,” he said. “We were like, ‘Oh, that’s a perfect song for this.’ We had so much fun shooting that scene, but Kevin had memorized whatever the original song was.”
“He was a little nervous because we were going to change the song for him. I was really proud of him for diving in and hearing the new one, learning it, and he just blew it. It was such a fun scene. It ended up being the perfect lyric to the perfect song.”
As with many sports-related films, music played an important role Champions. Acclaimed singer-songwriter Michael Franti composed the soundtrack.
“Freddy is a talented musician,” Farrelly enthused. “He’s a super talented reggae ska guy, and all his music is about love and acceptance and peace. He always comes from a really good place. While we were shooting the movie, Woody and I were talking about who we could to get later to do the score and we started talking about Frantis because we were both big fans of his.”
“We contacted him, he loved it and he was totally on board, and we couldn’t be happier. It was a real win.”