In When the Game Stands Tall, Jim Caviezel portrays coaching legend Bob Ladouceur.
Ladouceur’s personality required an actor that could portray a coach that is known for quiet intensity, an ethical spine, and a way of getting through to kids honestly. They found it in Person of Interest co-star Jim Caviezel.
Not only did he bring the required personality and acting credentials to his portrayal of the coaching legend, the actor’s star once played for the iconic John Wooden at UCLA. A would-be NBA player, Caviezel’s potential basketball career was cut short by an injury.
“It’s hard to play someone who’s living,” the actor says, “because everybody wants to see if you got it right. But I didn’t set out to get every single detail of Bob right. What I wanted to get right was the spirit of the story – which to me is about how Bob was able to teach young men what it means to give full effort and to be dependable to others. He was teaching them to be great leaders in their own communities one day, and it was never about winning. The winning was just a byproduct. It was always about loving each other, it was about the brotherhood. And that was something inspiring to me.”
Caviezel wanted to capture not only Coach Lad’s humility but also his innate charisma. For the actor, finding the right tone for the coach’s major talks were a major crux.
“The biggest challenge was to give the talks he gave on another kind of wavelength, to capture how he engaged kids by speaking directly from the heart,” Caviezel says. “The way Bob speaks, he brings the personal fire of these kids to life. He lays it out there but there’s no rah-rah. His motivation is all about his dedication to his players and not about the show.”
“Jim is a lot like Bob,” producer David Zelon says. “He’s quiet in a strong way, he’s religious and his father played for John Wooden, so he really knows from iconic coaches. He also came in extremely committed to the role. When we brought him to the State Championship to see the Spartans, the whole time he just watched Bob – watched him pace the sidelines, watched how he dealt with the players and coaches. He started immediately to mold himself into the part.”
How did Coach Lad feel about the actor portraying him on the big screen?
“Jim really did his homework and most of all, he understood our program, what we stood for and what we were trying to accomplish,” Coach Ladouceur said.
For Caviezel, the film is right up there with the likes of Brian’s Song, Rudy, and Hoosiers, films that the actor describes as “people films that were each about something bigger than sports.”