What do actor Zachary Levi and retired two-time NFL MVP, Tremendous Bowl champion, and Corridor of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner have in widespread? Seems, rather a lot.
Warner and Levi are the brand new era of males confronting challenges publicly, sharing vulnerability overtly, and taking duty as mentors.
We spoke with Warner and Levi about their upcoming movie, American Underdog, a biopic in regards to the struggles, life, and success of Warner that impressed a era of school athletes. Warner’s story is well-known however the film digs a lot deeper into what actually occurred through the time between collegiate ball and signing on with the NFL. Levi performs Warner as a younger man by means of his trajectory of being depending on meals stamps after graduating from faculty and dealing at a grocery retailer to turning into one of the vital profitable quarterbacks in NFL historical past.
“There’s stoicism about Kurt, however he additionally has a fantastic humorousness,” Levi displays about his first biopic portrayal. “I’m very outgoing and demonstrative and Kurt is extra delicate and nuanced—so I needed to pull again a bit to embody his wit and quiet strategy.”
“The essence of who we’re as males is definitely very comparable,” Warner pipes in. “You need to discover somebody who seems to be such as you, however I additionally wished to seize the essence of who I’m. Attending to know Zach, we got here to appreciate that we imagine in plenty of the identical issues and need to symbolize ourselves in the identical manner.”
The film options standout performances by Ser’Darius Blain, as Warner’s finest pal Mike Hudnutt. and Dennis Quaid as Warner’s St. Louis Rams coach and surrogate father-figure, Dick Vermeil. Actor Danny Vinson shines as Warner’s future father-in-law—notably throughout a potent scene (in a storage) about loyalty and the deep obligations of marriage and parenthood. Warner’s son Zachary is performed by Hayden Zaller—a small however weighty anchor within the film.
American Underdog opens on December 25, 2021.
Males’s Journal: From an actor’s standpoint, what do you suppose differentiates American Underdog from the canon of iconic sports activities films like Rudy, Bear in mind the Titans, Subject of Desires, Hoosiers, and Miracle?
Zachary Levi: In these films, there have been bodily and different perceived limitations: Skilled Russian hockey staff versus faculty youngsters; brief faculty child with athletic limitations taking part in for Notre Dame; faculty college students overcoming grief. What’s totally different right here is Kurt Warner had the bodily athleticism and elite stage capacity—but he nonetheless confronted a mountain of challenges, closed doorways, rejection, and repeatedly listening to No. The widespread denominator of all these films is, after all, persistence and willpower. However American Underdog focuses rather more on self-love—realizing you have been meant to do one thing and never letting anybody inform you otherwise.
Past the anticipated underdog thread, American Underdog weaves into its narrative all these types of non-romantic love that leverage human potential to the fullest.
Our film isn’t heavy-handed in its underdog theme. Kurt cared a lot in regards to the recreation and the individuals round him that all of them cherished him again. There’s plenty of comparable DNA in sports activities films, however what differentiates American Underdog is that it’s 25 % soccer and 75 % religion and household. It’s about being caught and getting unstuck. It’s about believing you might be meant for one thing larger and higher than what others imagine. That’s what Kurt realized from Brenda. Even when you have somebody who believes in you and helps you, you continue to need to imagine in your self.
You’ve talked about among the variations, personality-wise, between you and the soccer icon you’re portraying. Past that, do you see hidden similarities?
Kurt and I undoubtedly do have issues in widespread. He knew when he was younger that he was born to play soccer on the highest stage. I can relate to that as a result of I’ve wished to be an actor since I used to be 4 years previous. Regardless of your age, it’s a must to have an unrelenting religion in your self. There may be merely no substitute for religion in self. For those who work actually exhausting and comply with optimistic, trusted mentors, even when you don’t have these male tent posts to string that needle of accomplishment for you, belief in self is essential to manifesting your personal imaginative and prescient. Doesn’t matter when you’re dreaming of turning into an athlete, an actor or anything. All of it begins with that belief in your self. Throughout the shoot, I simply saved attempting to remain as grounded as Kurt is. Kurt and [wife] Brenda have been on set for a lot of the shoot. For actors, that’s normally nerve-wracking, however I used to be grateful to have them there as a result of they’re each so beneficiant and sort. There’s a signature confidence about Kurt. I feel all of those traits have been vital to convey ahead in honoring his story, his household, and him.”
You’ve skilled your personal share of obstacles and challenges. Have been you ready to attract upon a few of these to assist inform Kurt’s story?
Kurt and I each had a scarcity of a father in our lives. That’s one thing I actually struggled with—together with my very own psychological well being years in the past. After I was 37, I didn’t know if I wished to stay anymore. So I sought out assist. Remedy was immensely useful for me. A very powerful factor is to worth who you might be, not what society desires you to be. Life is exponentially simpler when you worth your personal self-worth. If I do nothing else on this life however assist males of all ages open up about their feelings and wishes, that’ll be sufficient. That dialog is on the forefront for me. It’s precedence primary.”
As a 41-year-old actor taking over the position of a 24-year-old Kurt Warner, may you may have seen your self taking part in this position 17 years in the past? Is there an emotional benefit to the age hole?
I couldn’t have performed this position as a younger man. Bringing my life expertise to it allowed me to embody the total arc of Kurt’s expertise—so I actually do really feel very grateful that I’m not youthful doing this position as a result of the depths of what I’ve lived by means of and the challenges I’ve confronted knowledgeable my efficiency as a person and an actor. It allowed me to look each ahead and again, whereas infusing my character with all of that important life expertise. Had I been 24 years previous as an actor, I wouldn’t have been in a position to convey the identical maturity and depth of understanding ahead within the efficiency.
Males’s Journal focuses on ever-evolving definitions of well being, household, duty, work, and masculinity. Are you able to inform us extra about Active Minds—the group you’re employed with to supply sources and psychological well being steering for younger males?
Psychological well being and a more healthy definition of masculinity is such a vital factor to be speaking about now. Once we discuss “poisonous masculinity” specifically, what does that basically imply? It means somebody has skilled trauma. Sooner or later in life, a person has skilled a damaged physique or a damaged thoughts, and if left untreated or dismissed that’s when poisonous byproducts rear their head. We—males and the younger males we mentor—want to debate grace and empathy and shift how we see well being and psychological well being. All of us have a lot happening in our hearts and minds. That must be listened to and valued when expressed. It shouldn’t and may’t be thought of an indication of weak point.
The pandemic has exacerbated psychological well being points in younger males. There was an increase in nervousness, despair, isolation and insecurity in regards to the future. What’s particularly vital proper now?
At any time, however actually throughout this time, we have to be reaching out to younger males and boys of their lives throughout their childhood—throughout that point when minds are most malleable. We have to give youngsters that important software equipment to stay wholesome lives and discover it in themselves to climate by means of life’s challenges. These instruments are important for navigating life from an early age.
Pay attention—psychological well being is like flossing your tooth. The sooner you begin as a child, the simpler it’s to maintain that behavior of remedy and counseling going. For those who cease brushing your tooth and cease flossing, guess what occurs? Cavities—and finally pulled tooth and root canals. With younger males, we have to begin with psychological well being upkeep at a a lot youthful age. Prevention and help are so significantly better than reactionary triage, rehab—or worse—sending first responders when it’s a lot too late.
Again to American Underdog. At its core, what’s it actually about?
American Underdog is in regards to the DNA of self-love and acceptance. Sure, I’m six-foot-four and athletic, however to be an elite athlete you could be mentally wholesome too. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, we have to settle for the place we’re. Within the movie, Brenda accepts the place Kurt is and continues to encourage him even by means of the highs and lows of confidence-shaking life occasions. Issues will begin manifesting whenever you imagine in your self and encompass your self with optimistic, supportive individuals. Individuals who really care about you and your future as younger males and males. Self-love is what it’s all about.
Kurt—over to you—was it exhausting to hand your life to Zachary Levi, or any actor for that matter, within the making of such a private film?
Kurt Warner: It’s simpler whenever you notice that the 2 of you might be fairly comparable in some ways—and in addition whenever you discover sure parallels. Much like what Zach was saying about issues taking place later versus earlier, had I entered the NFL instantly after faculty, I wouldn’t have been the identical individual or participant. In my thoughts, I wouldn’t have completed the identical issues I used to be in a position to later in my life. After I look again, I couldn’t have performed that almost as effectively had I not had that seasoning, time, and coaching floor to battle.
Did you see something in your self whereas watching Zachary on the display screen that you simply hadn’t beforehand acknowledged?
That’s a extremely good query. As athletes we’re kinda taught “no feelings.” All the time be assured. All the time imagine in your self. An enormous a part of my life was simply eager to imagine I used to be going to make it. However there are all these human feelings and questions that go together with that. Am I adequate? Am I gonna make it? That inner wrestling match is ongoing. There have been moments of doubt that I attempted to suppress, however they have been there. Zach captured each my confidence and my vulnerability.
Do you may have a favourite scene within the movie?
It’s exhausting to select one second or scene from that point in my life, but when I needed to I feel it will be the marriage scene. It connects soccer and with the ability to transfer previous that and seeing one thing larger. That’s after I realized that soccer isn’t the whole lot. That was a giant a part of letting go and turning into who I totally wished to turn out to be in life.
Athletes and non-athletes alike are on the market mid-pandemic listening to plenty of No. That’s a weighty syllable on this movie. What’s the mindset that helps you attain Sure?
Lots of people on the market are in that very same place proper now. After I labored in a grocery retailer, I noticed that this isn’t the top of the sport. My Grocery store Second was acknowledging that I’ve to take that subsequent step. I didn’t know what my path was. Ups and downs, items and bads—by no means let your circumstances outline you. That to me is the message. You simply gotta think about your self. You’ll get nearer to your vacation spot when you develop as an individual. Certainly one of my favourite traces within the film is throughout that Corridor of Fame speech: ‘Typically you gotta do what it’s a must to do while you’re ready to do what you have been born or need to do.”
Fatherhood and its absence is such an enormous theme within the movie. For younger males—or males of any age—who really feel dissonance from being uncared for by the absence of their fathers, what’s the message right here? The place is the optimistic path ahead?
Attempt to be taught from each circumstance. I requested myself what did I miss and what did I would like at that age? After which I made a decision my very own youngsters would by no means miss that. I realized from among the least favorable circumstances. My father and I needed to work by means of that somewhat than blaming anybody. What can we do with what occurred up to now—now? The place can we join as males? It wasn’t excellent straight away. It was a sluggish course of. We wanted to determine this out somewhat than holding animosity. We labored it out. I realized what I may from what I missed as a child however I proceed to hunt out what I would like. Now we’ve gotten to a spot the place we’re very shut and he’s an unbelievable grandfather to my youngsters. I would like him to be the form of grandpa that he wasn’t as a father. He’s grown, and I’ve grown.
Submit-quarterback profession, what are among the stuff you’re most enthusiastic about nowadays?
I’m most enthusiastic about persevering with to impression individuals with totally different endeavors I’ve taken on. I’m very passionate in regards to the group my spouse and I’ve created at Treasure House—an energetic dwelling group for younger adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities. The objective of Treasure Home is to supply younger adults with an accessible, protected dwelling surroundings that may help them as they develop, develop, and thrive.
Just a few fast huddle questions earlier than we wrap up. Favourite NFL staff?
Cardinals and the Rams.
Favourite NCAA staff?
Kansas State, as a result of my son performs there proper now.
Greatest quarterback in historical past?
Tom Brady is the perfect of all time, however rising up I used to be a giant Dan Marino fan.
Who’s gonna win the Tremendous Bowl?
I’d prefer it to be the Arizona Cardinals, however I feel it’ll be Tampa Bay.
Greatest shovel cross within the NFL now?
[Laughter] … Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs has a fairly good one.
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