By: Mary Kate Dorr – Asst. A&E Editor
On Friday, Disney’s newest film will hit theaters and the hearts of anyone who has ever loved a sports team. “McFarland, USA” follows the 1987 true story of coach Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, and the exceptional cross country team he builds in a small, predominately Latino community. In searching for a job, White ends up at McFarland High School where he finds himself having trouble connecting with the students until he notices their outstanding ability to run. This inspires him to challenge the boys further, eventually creating not only a team, but a legacy for this small, agricultural town in California.
In a conference call with Jim White and Kevin Costner, both men agreed that the film is not only about the sport, but about the passion and community of the team.
“It is really, really true to the life hardships that the kids have to go through working in the fields,” White said. “That it is so important to understand what they’re going through. And then to come back and have a successful life.”
Costner hopes the film will be an emotional experience for the viewers as they watch the team grow and succeed. He was able to further develop the role of White in his time at McFarland by growing closer to and experiencing the small community.
“Seeing these people first hand, up close in these fields that they’re simply working there, these incredible hours in very difficult weather conditions, every day of their life for one reason and one reason only: to advance their children and give their children a better opportunity,” Costner said.
“At its very core, this movie is not about running,” he said. “It is not about cross country. This movie is really about the American dream and the American dream in McFarland is alive and well.”
This is what originally drew Costner to the story of McFarland back in the 1980s when he first read about the team in Sports Illustrated. “I was just thinking, ‘Wow, what a great story,’” Costner said. He soon forgot about the story of McFarland until approached about the role of Jim White years later. Costner, who for a short time lived in Central Valley, a popular agricultural site in California, soon realized he had played against McFarland’s baseball team in high school, drawing him even closer to the team and its story.
Costner did not have to do much research for the part of White, as he said White is a straightforward man with a straightforward role. Originally, Costner did not approve of how the role of White was written, and sent the script back to create a more accurate portrayal.
To the small town of McFarland, the release of this film has inspired pride in its community. Even the city logo, which used to read “Heartbeat of Agriculture,” has changed to the silhouette of a person running through the field and reads “Tradition, Unity, and Excellence” underneath. White said that the team is elated to be included in interviews and question and answer sessions regarding their accomplishments.
“McFarland, USA” will open in theatres Friday. The film is rated PG, and will be released by Walt Disney Pictures.