*I received an all expense paid trip thanks to Disney and ABC studios. All my opinions are my own and not swayed by outside sources.*
I am so excited because McFarland USA opens today. This is a fantastic family film that will leave you wanting more! You can click here to see my full review: McFarland USA.
We had the honor to interview Niki Caro, the director of McFarland USA when we were in LA a few weeks back. It was a privilege to be in the company of a world class director and learn about her visions when she was directing this film. If you are unfamiliar with Niko Caro, she is a writer, director, producer, and so much more. She currently has 9 directing credits including McFarland USA, Whale Rider, North Country, and Mercy Peak to name a few. She was born in New Zealand and has brought her love of the arts to this country for the last 15 or so years.
We first asked her how directing this movie was different from other movies she has directed in the past. She told us it was very similar since she has a specific way she wants to work. With a film like McFarland, she put her passion into showing how people from small towns with a less economic means, really can stand out and showcase what they have in life. In McFarland, it was the fact that these boys made a team, with no real experience or no money, and they went on to believe in themselves and win. She loves to show how people from little places are beautiful, creative, and champs both on the track field and off.
“I figured out the way I work best. Which is real stories and real people. Go to the real community. Ask for their collaboration. Keep my eyes and my ears open and my mouth shut. And just see how life is lived. Be really observant.” -Niki Caro
Next was the obvious question about working and directing the one and only Kevin Costner. First, she told us how handsome and amazing he is. Meeting him at this press trip I can fully agree with both of her statements. She mentioned that not only is he is a bona fide movie star but he is an inspirational director, all while being incredibly humble. He showed up every day not only as an actor, but the true and gracious man he is. She told us how decent and honorable Kevin Costner truly is.
“So humble and so generous to those boys. It was very, very moving for me to watch the way — how fatherly he was with them. And equally the boys– what the boys did to him. They are so irreverent. And they really bought out his tenderness and his humility.” (about Kevin Costner) -Niki Caro
He brought those boys onto set and took them on as their own kids. He not only cared for these kids on-screen, but she told us how much he truly card for them off-screen. Niki Caro raved about Kevin Costner, his attitude, passion, and love for all that he does in his life.
Then we got around to asking her what her favorite scene was in McFarland USA.
“There’s a scene, it’s really small. The kids go in the bus to the meet. And there are kids holding signs in the road and they’re running behind the bus. And there’s no sound except just for Antonio Pinto’s music. And in the screenplay I’d written, this is the first time the boys were heroes in their lives.” -Niki Caro
It was inspiring to her to see such a small town and a tiny team really start to make it in their hometown. It was the first time McFarland was truly put on the map and the legacy for them started.
What I really loved about Niki Caro was how honest she was. She told us over and over, that this film was not about Kevin Costner saving the Latino boys in the film. Rather, Jim White (played by Kevin Costner) is a flawed man that is redeemed as a coach, father, and human being, by these kids. She said the most challenging aspect was that there were a lot of people in each scene and she really wanted to showcase the town of McFarland. She wanted to put attention and care into each of the boys story to accurately portray them in the film. That was the most time consuming for her.
She said everyone in the movie was superb, even the ones who never stepped foot on a set before. The professionalism seen among all the actors made it easy to make this film and take it to the next level. She loved how she got some of the actual runners from McFarland to film this. It is one thing to see the acting, but another to see real life runners in the film. The one thing she wants to convey is how real the story of McFarland is and while a movie, it uses all of these boys from McFarland real stories.
She told how she visited McFarland to draw inspiration for the film and met with the people who live there to this day. They welcomed her shooting in their town and did anything to make the production run smoothly. McFarland was so happy to have this movie made about them and honored for their story to become a major motion picture. Niki Caro made sure when she went into McFarland, she became “a McFarland person” just like the people living there. She wanted to live with the people, eat their food, etc.
“The doors were flying open to McFarland. And it starts with Jim. He’s kind of like the unofficial mayor. When we went out there to shoot, the town couldn’t do enough for us. And, you know, there’s so much love and pride there. So much. And they were so happy that we were there. Yeah, it’s so nice. You go into places — real places, and, you know, it’s so exciting.” -Niki Caro
Niki Caro did not anticipate what a profoundly American film she made. That was very amazing to her. She told us how 99 percent of the movie are Mexican Americans but it is truly an American film. She mentioned something Kevin Costner said that she not only agreed with but will continue to resonate in her life for the rest of her days.
“There is nothing more American than parents wanting more for their children. Doing everything for their children.” -Kevin Costner
“I’m from New Zealand. I’m a parent. My family is more important to me than any of this. What I observe in this country is how parents are so into their kids here. And it’s so amazing. It’s so amazing. I think this movie shows us and gives us a really accurate reminder of the lengths to which parents will go to give their children a better life. Nothing is more inspiring than that. And nothing is more American than that.” -Niko Caro
She is very proud of this movie, which she certainly should be. The movie is wonderful and should be seen by all!