Actor Who Played Jesus in the ‘Passion’ Explains Why His New Football Film Is So Much More Than a Sports Movie

Actor Jim Caviezel firmly believes that his new film “When the Game Stands Tall,” which centers on Bob Ladouceur, a legendary football coach who led the De La Salle High Spartans to 151 straight victories, will show audiences the power of redemption and “the importance of role models.”

Caviezel, who rose to fame in 2004 when he played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” portrays Ladouceur in this new film, telling TheBlaze that the coach, who retired last year from the Catholic high school in Concord, California, after more than three decades leading the team, is an inspiration.

“This guy won 151 football games in a row. During that time span he had to be doing something right,” Caviezel said.

The actor detailed how impressed he was by some of Ladouceur’s tactics used to keep the team both cohesive and focused.

Rather than focusing on the winning, he said the famed football coach helped the young players connect with one another by encouraging them to express and share their strengths and weaknesses. It is these elements, among others, that are shown in the film.

Caviezel said “When the Game Stands Tall” is more than a mere football movie, as it shows how Ladouceur found a way to craft a winning team by establishing interpersonal relationships based on love and a “commitment to create a brotherhood amongst themselves.”

“It is a sports movie, but that’s just something that has action and [it focuses] on their personal responsibility with the kids and the kids with them,” he said of the coaches and the players portrayed in the film.

The actor, whose defining career role in the “Passion” focused on self-sacrifice and redemption, said that “When the Game Stands Tall” deals with some of these same subjects.

“It follows the same line of things that I’ve looked for as something that has a redemption to it,” Caviezel said, noting that while the characters he plays don’t always have this quality, the story lines he chooses to be a part of do. “I think those are the most powerful stories.”

He said that there’s something appealing about seeing a character who chooses to repudiate darkness.

“We are weak and failed in some ways and are looking for stories that help us believe and ‘Hoosiers’ was that for my generation,” Caviezel said, referring to the 1980s film about a high school basketball coach. “Now [“When the Game Stands Tall”] will be that for the current [generation].”

One of the heavier subjects dealt with in the film is the real-life death of Terrance Kelly, a star running back and linebacker with the De La Salle High Spartans who was murdered in 2004 just two days before he was scheduled to leave for college.

Stephan James, the actor who played Kelly in “When the Game Stands Tall,” was praised by Landrin Kelly, the young man’s father, for perfectly portraying his son.

Clearly an emotional portion of the film, special care went into ensuring that the actors were rightfully representing what unfolded. After all, bringing sensitive, real-life events to the big screen can be difficult, especially when trying to capture the tone, actions and feelings that the individuals experienced.

Caviezel, who has spent time with Ladouceur, said that Kelly’s death truly hit him when he visited the high school.

“When you look at the benches that they sit on there’s a personal quote from individuals who had lived and died. It’s engraved on the bench that the players sit on,” he said. “One of them was a quote from Terrance Kelly. It scared me. You want to get it right. You’re playing somebody who really lived and breathed.”

“When the Game Stands Tall” will release nationwide August 22.