‘Champions’ is in cinemas now and delivers a hilarious and heartfelt sports movie that’s hard not to fall in love with. Starring Woody Harrelson and Kaitlin Olson, the film follows the story of Marcus, a basketball coach who, after a brush with the law, is court-ordered to take charge of ‘The Friends’ – a local youth team with intellectual learning disabilities.
We caught up with the film’s producer Paul Brooks to discuss the film and his work in Hollywood. Paul has produced some of the biggest genre films of the last 20 years including the ‘Pitch Perfect’ and ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ franchises.
Check out our 4 star review of ‘Champions’
How did you first get involved with Champions?
I saw the original Spanish movie a few years ago and fell in love with it! So I picked up the remake rights and here we are 🙂
What drew you to the story?
I thought it was a wonderful tale about human relationships with folk who have adversity in front of them every day and rise above it – as well as being very funny & totally heart-warming.
The cast are superb, and a huge reason why and I really loved the film. What was the casting process like, and did it take a long time to find just the right ensemble?
It took literally hundreds of tapes and auditions to find out final 10 Friends. So glad you liked them – we felt their authenticity would shine through.
Woody Harrelson delivers one of his best performances in ‘Champions’, and alongside Kaitlin Olson they share a great chemistry which really guides the film throughout. How were they to work and collaborate with?
Wonderful – simple as that – as you noted they had great chemistry and were both so passionate about the project.
What was it like working with director Bobby Farrelly?
Great guy – great instincts but also very collaborative. And he was fantastic with The Friends – incredibly caring and sensitive.
Was this a more complicated film to work on, given the restrictions with the global pandemic?
It was one of 3 films we shot during the pandemic, and they were all challenging but we managed the process effectively on each film – and we were fortunate, for example on ‘Champions’, not to have had any issues.
Do you have a particular favourite scene or sequence in Champions that you can’t wait for audiences to experience?
All of them!
Does the genre and size of a project affect your approach as a producer? Do challenges present themselves on working on a project like ‘Champions’, compared with something, say, in the horror genre, like ‘Slither’ or ‘A Haunting in Connecticut’?
Truthfully every film is more or less the same – full of challenges but we all just keep banging through them (!)
You’ve produced some huge films over the years, including the Pitch Perfect and My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchises. What can you tell us about the new instalments of those projects, which are due out in the near future?
My lips are sealed!
How has the industry changed for you since you first began?
Simplistically, it’s got a lot harder trying to put together the kind of movies that feel like there is a wide cinema audience for – but if one can, the marketplace still exists for movies outside of tent-poles.
Are there any films you’ve worked on that you were surprised at just how popular they became?
Sure – I never thought ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ would be the monster it turned out – I always believed it would do well, but not at anything like the levels it ultimately hit.
Many believe that we are in a golden age of TV, and that it’s overtaking Film. What do you think?
As far as great drama is concerned that may be right – one of the reasons the Art-House game has got so hard is that there is so much excellent drama on TV now.
What or who were your biggest influences growing up? You didn’t start out in the film industry so what inspired you to take on Hollywood?
I grew up loving those great American movies of the late ‘60s and all through the ‘70s and always wanted to make movies.
Is there a passion project that you’d love to work on in the future?
They’re all passion projects! 🙂
Thanks for your time Paul, and good luck with ‘Champions’.
‘Champions’ is in cinemas worldwide now.