Every so often a movie that touches your heart comes along. This is the case for Champions, a movie produced by Focus Features. The movie showcases a heartwarming, yet hilarious, story of a former minor-league basketball coach who, after a series of missteps, is ordered by the court to manage a team of neurodivergent players. These players are aptly called “The Friends” and proved their amazing skills throughout the movie.
The Friends consists of Madison Tevlin as Consentino; Joshua Felder as Darius; Kevin Iannucci as Johnny; Ashton Gunning as Cody; Matthew Von Der Ahe as Craig; Tom Sinclair as Blair; James Day Keith as Benny; Alex Hintz as Arthur; Casey Metcalfe as Marlon; and Bradley Edens as Showtime.
The new Focus Features comedy was inspired by the acclaimed Spanish film Campeones, which had plenty of success when it was released in 2018. In fact, it became Spain’s biggest box office hit that year, allowing it to win Best Film at the Spanish Film Academy’s Goya Awards.
Paul Brooks, who is a producer of Champions, remembers how much he loved Campeones.
“I was desperate to remake it,” Brooks said in an official statement.
Years later, his dream came true.
One of the most captivating factors of the movie is how mindful and intentional it is. Champions hired Disabled actors and made sure to use proper terminology throughout the movie.
“The world’s changing a lot, in a good way,” director Bobby Farrelly said. “We’ve become aware of how hard it is for Disabled actors to get parts in movies because they don’t read for parts that aren’t disabled, so when the character is Disabled, it should go to a Disabled actor.”
Shining a light on the cast of ‘Champions’
Champions, starred by Woody Harrelson, was equipped with a talented cast. The cast includes Kaitlin Olson, Matt Cook, Ernie Hudson, and the Chicano art enthusiast, Cheech Marin, among others.
Every actor excelled in their role. Let’s take Marin’s role, Julio, for instance.
Julio oversaw the non-profit recreation center where the Friends played. Often, he set a light tone in the storyline, which led to many moments of comedic relief. Yet, his role did more than bring about laughter, it showcased the love for another human being. It is evident that Julio’s lovable character meant well and truly cared for the Friend’s well-being. He maintained a calm and joyful demeanor throughout Champions, and it was well-received.
“Julio is a guy who has devoted his life to running this league,” explained Farrelly in a statement.
“He’s a really solid person and Cheech is such a lovable character himself that he brings that to the role. He was such a great addition to our movie.”
During this movie, Marin was able to reunite with some former colleagues as well, including Marin and Harrelson.
“Cheech and I worked together – believe it or not – on a Sam Shepard play called The Late Henry Moss, that Sam directed,” Harrelson said. “We got along like gangbusters. Cheech is an awesome guy and he was the perfect guy for this part.”
“It was really great to work with Woody again,” Marin said agreeing with Harrelson.
“I love his rhythm and I love the tone that he brings to the character. It’s really heartfelt and intelligent but his intelligence reveals itself in what he does, rather than what he says.”
Marin is a Latino actor who defied plenty of challenges in Hollywood. He brought in his own flare and reeled people in with his charisma and superb skills. Though he is often remembered for his time in the famed comedy series, Cheech & Chong, he is also a director, writer, musician, art collector, humanitarian and multi-generational talent.
Wanting to learn more about his decision to take part in this movie, BELatina News recently spoke with Cheech Marin. Find out what he had to say about Champions below.
Interview Highlights with Cheech Marin
Interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.
On taking the role
It was a chance to work in Winnipeg in December (laughs). You know, because that’s what everybody wants to do. [But] it looked like a heartfelt role. [And] I knew about basketball. I knew about being in a gym, a lot. I was that kid in high school and college. And so, I know what these guys are up against.
On what he hopes people take away from watching ‘Champions’
I hope that they come to an understanding of there’s more to these kids than meets the eye. You know, which is, you know, don’t judge a book by its cover.
One kid spoke seven languages. Fluently. Another kid could dance really well. And some of them have physical disabilities, too. But once they concentrate, they can do really well. I mean, you could see them practicing all over the gym when they had nothing else to do. They would do their dance, and perfect it.
On his favorite part of the movie
I liked when they were learning how to win. By the middle of the movie, they start to learn how to win. And it’s something you learn how to do. It’s not you just you’re just out there till you know the time runs out you know.
Marin has appeared in over 20 films, including his scene-stealing role in Tin Cup where he played Kevin Costner’s caddy, and eight of Robert Rodriguez’s movies in which he played international characters. Marin has also had numerous roles in animated movies, including Oliver & Company, The Lion King, and Cars.
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