Here’ today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
1. The Might Macs occupy Wall Street then take Philly by storm. The inspirational comedy-drama (based on the true story of the historic 1971 winning season of the women’s basketball at the Pennsylvania-based Catholic academy Immaculata College) opens in over 1,000 theaters nationwide this Friday. That’s up from the originally-planned 250 or so, a clear sign that theater owners are growing more enthusiastic over the prospects for the little independent movie that (like the team that inspired it) has defied all obstacles on its way to the big time.
Last Friday, really got the ball rolling (so to speak) as members of production occupied Wall Street in a friendly way by ringing the opening bell at the NYSE. On hand for the event were Quaker Media Group founders Tim Chambers (who produced, directed and co-wrote the film) and Vince Curran, as well as Cathy Rush (the legendary women’s coach who, over seven years, led the Macs to 149 wins and just 15 losses), Theresa Shank Grentz (who played on all three of team’s early ’70’s championship squads and went on to become a star coach in her own right), actress Katie Hayek and Sony Pictures Executive Director of Marketing Lisa Jean.
Later it was on to Philadelphia for press interviews (including with the likes of me) and the film’s World Premiere red carpet event at the Kimmel Center.
Let’s start with the NYSE:
Somehow, they all managed get town to Philly by afternoon for press interviews, during which I got to speak with Quaker Media’s Chambers and Curran, real-like Mighty Macs coach Cathy Rush, real-life Mighty Macs players Theresa Shank Grentz and Judy Marra Martelli, actresses Katie Hayek and Meghan Sabia (who played team members), cinematographer Chuck Cohen (whose sports film credits include Jerry Maguire and Any Given Sunday) and Sister Marian William Hoben who was Director of College Development Immaculata (which, BTW, is now officially a university) in the 1970’s. On the red carpet later, I spoke with Carla Gugino, the movie’s star who portrayed Mrs. Rush in the film and Marley Shelton who played the fictional Sister Sunday, a novice nun who, in the film, became Rush’s assistant coach and confidante.
During the course of those interviews, it became clear to me that there some real bonds of friendship were formed during the making of this movie and that there is a real team spirit devoted to promoting its success. Forty years after the actual events depicted in the movie, the story’s themes of faith, friendship, teamwork and overcoming great are echoed by those involved with seeing this production to the end.
Some excerpts from what they told me and other members of the press:
Judy Marra Martelli (Real-like Mighty Mac) on the sisters of Immaculata Collage: They were a little bit ahead of their time. They did encourage us to be strong, independent women. It comes across (in the film) as if the sisters were not as supportive as they were. Right from the very beginning they were very supportive.
Cathy Rush (responding to my question about Carla Gugino’s portrayal of her): I think she’s great. She’s not a basketball experienced person but we met, she wanted to know how I talked to the girls, what I did and I think she took on fabulously the role of what she needed to do for that team. So, I think she was great and she’s pretty.
Cathy Rush on what she hopes young people take from the film: Dreams are for everybody…Men and women, rich and poor, black and white, we all have dreams. Everybody’s dreams don’t come true but even in dreaming and aspiring you become a little better version of yourself because you pushed yourself a little bit harder.
Sister Marian William Hoben (recalling watching the team’s progress): I’m a sports fan. I’m still crying over the Phillies. I had followed the team since I stared at Immaculata which was 1960. We had a basketball program but when Cathy came it was changed but we didn’t realize it was changing. It was so gradual. Kids would come home from a game and they’d say we won last night. (We’d go) “Again?” Then pretty soon we’re saying “AGAIN?!” in that they kept winning and winning. Then they got this invitation to go to the regionals…And we (the sisters) were all saying “What are the regionals?” Then we finally found out and were excited about that but then when we got the invitation to go to the Nationals, we just couldn’t believe it…Some were saying they can’t go because it’s too expensive and we’ve never be able to raise enough money and then everybody’s trying to get some money. The clubs gave part of their meager budgets toward the team so they’d be able to ride out. In this movie they (the team members) were selling skin cream or something (to raise money). Well, actually it was toothbrushes…More people need toothbrushes than skin cream. But, anyhow, they went from door to door and store to store and so on and I think every member of the faculty, every student, all of us, (still) have enough toothbrushes for the rest of our lives.
Why is she so proud of the team? Watching (each of) them develop as a person…I was reading up on Aristotle and he says…the signs of an ethical person are the things we would look for: Integrity, goodness, generosity but also being a really good friend…They were certainly good friends to one another — and to their opponents. They knew how to win but they won gracefully. They didn’t brag. They just seemed to think it was some kind of gift from God and they praised the coach for it and then they’d say did you notice how good so and so was from the other team? They just had a great feeling of what friendship was…One person would be helping the other to do something in practice and maybe it was a secret weapon that she could be star with and she was showing it to another girl and they cheered one another and I just feel that they really knew what ethics were…They just seemed to me to have something that young people don’t always have.
Actress Marley Shelton (Sister Sunday) on what was most challenging about playing a nun: The habit, especially in the 1970s. You can hardly hear. This outfit is so challenging but I was honored (to play the role).
Carla Gugino telling me why she chose to take on the role of Cathy Rush: Well, first and foremost, it’s a really entertaining movie because it’s just a great story and the thing about true stories is there’s no reason to tell (them) just because (they’re) true. It needs to work as a movie. It needs to have a dramatic life to it and it really, really does. But also…I think that a lot of people are born into a circumstance where they believe they can actually fulfill their dreams and other people are born into circumstances where they really believe they have no chance of their dream (coming true)…I think this movie definitely will reveal to people the possibility that our possibilities are limitless.
And, talking about momentum for the film building, here are some underlying points reported from Christian News Wire:
With October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there is a moving “story behind the story” of THE MIGHTY MACS as well. Not only is Cathy Rush a cancer survivor, but Katie Hayek, a young featured actress in the film, was diagnosed with cancer the day filming started. With Tim Chambers’ support, Katie continued working on THE MIGHTY MACS through her chemotherapy treatments, turning in a stirring performance as Trish, the Macs’ best player.
In addition to the increased screen count, some theater operators are adding earlier show times to accommodate school groups. And other groups are getting on board:
- At prestigious Rice University in Texas, a business professor is using the film to teach sales and marketing techniques as student teams offer discount tickets.
- At Notre Dame University, an exclusive on-campus advance screening led to a commitment by one university administrator to buy out an entire screening of THE MIGHTY MACS when the film opens Oct. 21.
- At the University of Arizona, the women’s basketball team committed to a 150-ticket purchase and to hosting a pre-show event.
I’ll have my review of The Mighty Macs on Wednesday, but my pal Anthony Sacramone (who writes the insightful Strange Herring blog) has just posted his take on the film (worth reading). The pictures below were also taken by him.
Marley Shelton (Sister Sunday) Cathy Rush meets the press
For more info and to see the trailer click here.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11