Zachary Levi as Kurt Warner in ‘American Underdog’ – The Hollywood Reporter
Fresh in high school and 19, Zachary Levi remembers “watching it all happen in real time” as the St. Louis Rams Kurt Warner led his team to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV with a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on January 30, 2000. What a moment in history to witness Warner won the title of MVP for the big game, capping what many call one of the greatest stories in NFL history.
The Iowa native, who had been queuing at a grocery store just a few years earlier, appeared to be stuck as an untrained freelance worker after graduating from high school at the University of Northern Iowa and being bullied. Green Bay Packers dropped. Warner found success in arena football with the Iowa Barnstormers before eventually being signed by the Rams in 1998.
“It was this crazy Cinderella story,” Levi detailed about The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday night at the premiere of his new movie American style. In the film Lionsgate, Levi was cast as Warner alongside Anna Paquin, who played Brenda Warner’s wife. “This guy went out of nowhere to take the Rams to a Super Bowl and win. It was very inspiring and then when I read the script his story was even inspiring because it had meat. There’s so much detail and so much depth about who Kurt is, who Brenda is, their relationship, the kids, their beliefs in each other, the struggles they’ve been through, and their love for each other. they overcame them all. Once I realized that was the story being told here, I wanted to be part of the retelling of that story.”
The story being told is one taken directly from Warner’s memoirs, All Things Possible: A Story of Faith, Football and My First Magical Season, and was adapted by writers Jon Gunn and David Aaron Cohen alongside Jon Erwin, who later co-directed with his brother Andrew Erwin. All of the above were present at Wednesday’s event, held at the TCL Chinese Theater on a chilly Los Angeles night with temperatures dropping to nearly 50 degrees. And it has the look and feel of a typical Hollywood premiere with a rug, teams and celebrity suits but many guests won’t be able to leave the SoFi stadium over the weekend because there are dozens of people. Fans have equipped the Rams and even a whole bunch of Rams cheerleaders.
Lionsgate and the event producers also ensured a boost of authentic football energy by posting the Vince Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl XXXIV by the Rams on the carpet and lining the back of the party with Warner jerseys and a trophy wall. . But with that hardware and now a movie about his life ready to hit theaters on Christmas Day, you won’t catch Warner playing a Hollywood diva. The NFL Hall of Famer never strayed far from his humble roots.
“We were just two ordinary people who lived life,” Kurt said CHEAP on the carpet in a joint interview with Brenda. “We know most people have lived lives like us, with their own set of struggles and challenges and supermarket moments. Stepping on a rug like this, it’s easy to ask, ‘Why are they making a movie about us? What did we really do but just live and fight? ‘ But with that comes humility and if there’s something in our story that can impact and encourage others and give them hope to show that the possibilities are endless no matter what you see. Wherever you are, it’s worth it. I have humbled myself before all, that is the biggest emotion I have right now.”
Same goes for Brenda, who also said she’s honored to play Oscar winner Anna Paquin on screen. “The first time I talked to her, she wanted to know why I believed what I believed because she didn’t necessarily believe what I believed, but she took it in and she said, ‘I want to. do the right thing,'” Brenda, whose faith conveys much of the story. watched her performance and said, ‘There are times when I feel just like you.’ She did a wonderful job.”
Paquin said the two had some “really great conversations” in preparation for the performance. “She is an American woman from the Midwest who has a really strong and deep relationship with her faith and religion. It’s not my resume,” explains Paquin. “I’m Catholic but it’s not really a big part of what defines me as a person, and I’m really curious about what that feels like and that relationship. how and its specifics. I want details, on a more detailed level, to understand that feeling and how their faith works. “
Even the American Underdog genre, an inspiring tale of redemption, faith, family, love and football, couldn’t make it to Paquin’s screen. “I listen to serial killer podcasts and watch a lot of documentaries that are really sad, so comedic, sentimental movies in general don’t tend to show up in my algorithm on any platform. ,” she said with a laugh.
However, it sits right in the wheelhouse of the Erwin brothers, who have previously collaborated on features I still believe and I can only imagine. “We grew up in the South, not far from Heartland, and all these themes of faith, family, and values were deeply ingrained and important to us,” says Jon. This story is really, it’s a love letter to Heartland. It’s a love letter to dreamers everywhere, and I just love the theme of never giving up on your dreams, about your destiny, about your calling in life, and that is what I hope people think when they see this, that maybe my dream is possible too.”
Adds Andrew: “Kurt Warner is the holy grail. If you look it up in the dictionary, his name will be next to it. He added that they were lucky enough to have Levi for the lead role, thanks to the schedule that drives the sequel to his franchise. Shazam! due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “He was at the top of the list to play Kurt but he wasn’t there,” explains Andrew. “Then COVID pushed Shazam! and we had to push, too, and he was finally ready. In the destinies of things, it’s surprising how well this comes together. Zach Levi was born to play this role”.
American style in theaters on December 25.