Disney’s newest big-screen film, “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” features a lower-class 20-year-old golf amateur struggling to prove himself to both the snooty gentlemen’s world and his unsupportive father. Under Bill Paxton’s direction, the film inches along a predictable path characterized by class struggle, a transition from youth to manhood and the determined protagonists’ eventual success at the game.
The movie revolves around the 1913 U.S. Open, in which amateur golf player Francis Ouimet defeated golf superstar Harry Vardon. Paxton tries to spice up the slow putts and drives with fancy cinematography moves, while writer Mark Frost (“Fantastic Four”) adds cheesy plot lines and a sugarcoated ending.
Essentially, the story is about Ouimet, whose working class family lives right next store to a prestigious golf course. In a recent interview with The Hatchet, a laid-back Bill Paxton described the movie’s setting and likeable protagonist as the two factors that first sparked his interest in the script.
“Like Francis Ouimet, my family lived right next to a golf course, so as a boy growing up there, the course was like my Camelot, it was my backyard,” Paxton said. “So I had this background, and I related to the story, which was really inspiring. You have to be inspired and passionate to be able to spend 18 months on a project.”
Excited about his personal connection to Frost’s script, Paxton’s next step was to convert the story to attract the interest and passion of the general public. He uses quick camera work to capture the sport’s mechanics and music to capture the intense pressure athletes feel before each shot.
“I saw so much potential with this movie, in how I could make it exciting for the public and really draw the audience into the game,” he said.
Paxton also recruited maturing Disney actor Shia LeBeouf (“Even Stevens,” “Holes”) to help engage the audience. While Paxton was attracted to the movie’s plot, LeBeouf related to the athletic intensity of Francis Ouimet’s character.
“I did not like golf at all when I started this film, because of the slow moving pace of the telecast,” LeBeouf said, “but its exciting now, because golfers don’t exert any type of emotion. As an actor, that’s what I found most interesting, their suppression of emotion.”
LeBeouf described six months of intense, daily training, which pulled him into the game and its exciting environment.
He stressed that “Greatest Game” is “a character film much more than a sports film.”
Like Paxton, LeBeouf sees “The Greatest Game Ever Played” as an artistic chance to bring something to the audience. In his interview with The Hatchet, he stressed the difference between himself and other wildly popular stars that emerged from the same humble Disney beginnings.
“There is a huge difference between a personality and an actor,” said LeBouf. “Much like Lindsay Lohan is to Evan Rachel Wood. A personality can put out an album, but an actor isn’t going to put out an album. They’re obsessed with this art form, so why would they go into this (other) art form.”
When asked how Disney has influenced his career, LeBeouf described the pros and cons of being in the midst of a transforming company that is trying to identify with a newer generation of quickly maturing youth. Though he was offered multiple opportunities to superficially push his career, LeBeouf has taken his choices seriously.
“Hilary Duff will put out three multi-platinum albums and be extremely wealthy, but she’s got no respect,” he said. “I could have gone that route easily. I’m not as big as Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff, and there’s a reason. Overexposure will kill your career.”