Inspirational stories are one of the many types of films that audiences flock to see on a yearly basis. It provokes in them a sense of hope and determination in face of adversity in day-to-day life. Don Handfield’s sports-themed movie “Touchback” centers right on that inspirational feeling that lingers in us every time we see these types of films. It’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, but is rather refreshing amidst all the negativity the real world has to offer.
We spoke with lead actor and producer Brian Presley about his latest film which was just released on DVD and Blu-ray today. For those of you who may not know, “Touchback” is a story about a high school football player who’s the best in the nation. But on the night of his biggest game, he suffers a career-ending injury that turns his world upside down. Years later, he’s given the chance to change his fate that day on the field.
What was it like taking on an intense role that not only you had to climb into the mental mindset of but you’re also dealing with a character whose physically disabled. How is that process of getting into that character?
Brian Presley: There’s so many different stages of really finding the older Murphy with the brace and the weight of that brace. Our makeup artist, what he was able to do, he really allowed me to really kind of embody this guy and the weight of what he was dealing with. But the fun part about this character was playing the time cap, playing both sides of it. Being able to shave and get rid of that brace and I caught myself kind of moving my leg back and forth similar to my character in the movie. After I got rid of all of that, I strapped on the pads and get out there and run around.
Now you’ve produced a couple of your own films before. Were you a producer before you signed onto the role in “Touchback” or was it the other way around? How did that go?
Brian Presley: The project, the writer/director (Don Handfield) wrote this about a few years ago. I did a picture for Lionsgate a few years back called “Borderland” then a friend of mine called me and said look, there’s a writer/director of this film called “Touchback” who really likes your work and thinks you guys should meet. He thinks you’d be a good fit. We sit down and he shared with me his vision for the movie. I was completely on the same page and said let’s figure out how we can make this. I knew it was a story that I was supposed to tell and the stars aligned and we were able to get it put together.
It’s not everyday when you’re on screen coach and friend happens to be played by Kurt Russell. What was it like working with him and did he like give you any advice or anything like that when you guys were filming?
Brian Presley: Yeah. Kurt [Russell] came in and we had the opportunity to go for Kurt and we obviously jumped at that opportunity. He’s a salt of the Earth kind of guy. He just came in and elevated the movie to a whole different level. His presence alone is.. it’s Kurt Russell. So it was a dream come true to be able to work with him and he is probably one of the most genuine guys that I’ve met in this industry. It was just a pure joy.
Why do you think films such as “Touchback” and other sports films of this nature continue to have audiences captivated? What do you think it is?
Brian Presley: I think it’s just the relatable factor. I think what’s interesting about this movie is it’s scored just as high with women as it did men. Most people associate guys with watching a football film, but I think as people who if they’ve never even have played a sport in their life really find themselves kind of set back into… especially people who have lived a bit and have been able to look back at their life and going back to high school kind of brings back all of those memories. I think it’s about audiences too putting themselves in those situations, in the shoes of our characters. Just giving life itself. Life brings us challenges and curveballs and no matter what roads you choose in life there’s always going to be those unexpected challenges. For me it’s your family, the people that are close to you kind of define what’s really important in life. So I think that’s what really the audiences have been able to appeal to a wide variety of people.
You said you’re fairly athletic, were you also one of the guys who was one of the big football players back in the day when you were in high school too?
Brian Presley: Yeah I did play. I was an All-State quarterback in Oklahoma and went to the University of Arkansas to play football. Freshmen year I had the opportunity to come to Los Angeles for the summer and ended up not going back. I did a McDonalds commercial and this was where I was supposed to be. So it was fun to be able to put the pads back on again.
It’s interesting too because you eventually run into people with that kind of viewpoint where high school was their glory days. It’s always kind of tragic in a way but I like how inspirational this was in that aspect.
Brian Presley: Yeah, I always kind of associate the movie with the Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers.” Some of those unanswered prayers end up becoming some of the greatest gifts. I think at the end of the movie when he wakes back up and his truck ran out of gas and he gets to where he sees his wife at the barn and his kids come running down, again that meaning of life, the value of our family and our relationships and kids and that’s what’s most important.