Woody Harrelson On What The Young Champions Cast Taught Him While Making The Basketball Comedy
From our exclusive interview.
Over 30 years after starring in one of the all-time great basketball movies, White Men Can’t Jump, Woody Harrelson has returned to play a coach of the sport in Champions. The 2023 new movie release has the actor portraying a man who gets kicked off a minor-league team, and after a run-in with the law, he gets assigned a team of players with intellectual disabilities as his community service. It’s an underdog story both on-screen and behind the scenes, and the leading actor shared that he learned some new things from his co-stars during the filming of the movie.
The latest Woody Harrelson movie employed a host of first-time actors with similar disabilities to the characters being portrayed in “The Friends” team. When speaking about working with his co-stars in Champions, Harrelson opened up about his experience improvising with the key players, telling CinemaBlend:
Release Date: March 10, 2023 (Theaters)
Directed By: Bobby Farrelly
Written By: Mark Rizzo
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Matt Cook, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin, Madison Tevlin, Joshua Felder, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, Matt Cook, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, Alex Hintz, Casey Matcalfe, Bradley Edens and James Day Keith
Harrelson spoke fondly of his experience as the unlikely coach of ten teammates who happen to have disabilities, and he worked closely with those actors on Champions. As the actor shared, when audiences watch his character meet “The Friends” in the movie, it was actually the first time he was meeting them in real life. He found his experience working with the young cast to be really authentic throughout shooting, and he felt like he actually was the one who learned something new from them rather than the other way around.
Champions is based on a 2018 film from Spain with the same name, Campeones, which was inspired by a real Spanish basketball team created by people with intellectual disabilities that won 12 Spanish championships between 1999 and 2014. CinemaBlend also spoke to the movie’s director, Bobby Farrelly, who shared his own experience working with the cast of Champions:
The cast of Champions was balancing a lot, between having to really play basketball on screen and simulate some funny and endearing moments between the team and Harrelson’s coach character. The movie marks a rare major release starring actors with disabilities in an industry where the community has often been depicted by people without disabilities, stereotyped, and still to this day, not represented much on the big screen.
Champions is now playing in theaters. Additionally, you can catch Woody Harrelson’s recent induction into the SNL five-timers club after hosting during Season 48, and you can look forward to the White Men Can’t Jump remake starring Jack Harlow, coming out on May 19.
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