(Conducted April 4 in Dallas)
Presbyterian Outlook: You probably thought the window of opportunity to play a high school football player was closed.
Brian Pressley: I did. But Don (Handfield, writer and director) had such an interesting take on it. To cover a 20-year time gap with one character playing two different roles, and not just me, but a whole group of people. Our makeup artist was Barney Berman, who won an Oscar for “Star Trek.” That kind of level of guys came aboard because of the message of the movie. Sort of like a faith-based “It’s A Wonderful Life” meets “Friday Night Lights.”
PO: How did you get back into the mindset of a high school boy?
BP: I really didn’t have to, because mentally I was 20 years down the road. That’s why it was so funny during the skinny-dipping scene, showing up and saying it’s a school night and I’m going to call your parents: the father, the 40-year-old man coming out. That’s my favorite moment in the movie. I think Don did a good job with layering in the comedic aspect.
PO: And getting in shape?
BP: I definitely had to hit the weights harder, and had more aches and pains than I remembered from playing in high school (as quarterback of a state championship team in Oklahoma). I quickly realized that I wasn’t 18 any more. We had 600 guys try out for the football sequences, and pretty much all of them ended their career with an injury, as well, so they were glad to strap on the pads again, even though it was hard work.
PO: Acting with Kurt Russell?
BP: One of the great payoffs of my 14 years in this business. I wanted to call him Doc Holliday; all these great characters that he’s played over the years. He was great about it. I’d ask him, and he’d tell me all kinds of stories. We really hit it off. He was a pro baseball player and played in the minors. His career ended with an injury, which was one of the things that drew him to the story. He came in, was on time, knew his lines. He didn’t have any assistants. It was just him, and he was part of the team, and would cut up with the crew. I can’t say enough good things. It was truly one of the highlights of my career.
PO: The message of the movie?
BP: Accepting where life is today, and the path we’re on. It’s kind of easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget what the important things in life are. I’ve done that. Being in Hollywood, you can get consumed with the prestige, wealth and fame. But what’s really important to me is my family: my wife and my kids. I just coached my kid’s flag football team, which was a dream come true for me. I’m here and I have my health. Those are what matter.
PO: I was afraid that (in the movie) when you came back as your 18-year-old self you were going creep out Melanie and spoil things.
BP: (laughs) Yeah, but my character had to come to the realization that if he changes what happens on the football field he’s going to be alone, not with the woman he loves and with his two kids.
PO: You mention faith-based, but this movie is not overtly religious.
BP: No, we wanted to layer in principles of God without saying “God.” Attitude is everything. Helping out people in need. Character integrity. Look at “Touchback” as a kind of parable. And when the whole town came out to help pick the 200 acres of soybeans, it’s a miracle. God works in mysterious ways and can answer prayers. I’m interested in things inspirational and uplifting.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.