By Paul Pabst
Special to Page 3
While the name Bill Paxton is familiar to movie fans from films like "Apollo 13," "A Simple Plan" and "Tombstone," the name Francis Ouimet is not. Ouimet was the 20-year-old amateur golfer and former caddie who beat the odds to win the 1913 U.S. Open over the legendary Harry Vardon. The story was first made into a best-selling book, and Paxton took "The Greatest Game Ever Played" to the big screen.Page 3 sat down with the director to talk about golf, Disney's "Greatest Game" and giving up an Oscar for a Masters title.
1. What is your background in the game of golf?
Bill Paxton: I grew up with the game. I was a caddie back in Fort Worth, Texas, on a Ben Hogan course. I've loved the game since then; it hasn't always loved me back.
2. Why did you choose this film?
I read the script and the book ... I had never heard about this story. I don't think a lot of people have. This is the ultimate underdog story -- it's a story about class and how what your father does for a living and how much money you have don't matter in a battle on a golf course.
3. The real match took place in Brookline, Mass. Where did you shoot the movie?
An old course in Montreal called Kanawaki. The course had a great look to it. It had these huge trees with think stumps and roots. It really added to the look.
4. The film had a kind of Old West gunfighter feel during the golf scenes. How did you decide on that look?
I wanted it to feel like a duel of knights ... or a fight at the OK Corral. I don't think you've ever seen a golf movie that focuses on the players and what they go through. I wanted the golfers to come off like Alan Ladd in the movie "Shane."
5. How tough was it to make the golf action look like it did in 1913?That was a challenge, but I was excited to try to do that. I watched old clips of golfers with wooden-shafted clubs, and I loved the way the clubs bowed when they swung. We tried to recapture the look and feel of the time.
6. How did you try to make this different from other golf movies?
We made the camera a character, and what you don't see with golf on TV ... they follow the ball in flight. I wanted to focus on the golfer. The crowd can tell you what happened. The body language of the golfer can tell you what happened.
7. Which young phenom had a bigger impact on the game of golf, Tiger Woods or Francis Ouimet?
Ouimet. He was an American in a time when the British were in control of golf. And the fact that he came from being a caddie to winning the U.S. Open, that's an important moment in the development of golf in America.
8. Who is the Tiger Woods of acting?
Stephen Dillane. He played Harry Vardon in this movie. I've never seen anything that good. He was just cool.
9. Which would you rather do, win an Oscar or win The Masters?
The Masters, no doubt. The Oscars are subjective and sometimes political. It takes an unbelievable amount of skill to win a major.
10. Which is tougher to do, hit a 300-yard drive or cry on cue?
Oh, man. I'll say this: If I ever hit a 300-yard drive ... I WOULD CRY ON CUE!