Finding Community in Seven Days in Utopia
- Thursday, September 01, 2011
Luke doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s hearing from a former golf professional . . . someone who understands the game, someone who’s experienced loss and someone who knows all too well the bumpy road that brought Luke to the crossroads he’s standing at today.
So what does the young golfer have to lose? He’s at the end of himself, and he’s got a few days off from the golf tournament circuit. Carrying his baggage full of frustrations due to poor performance, a broken relationship with his father (who just happens to be Luke’s caddy and is living out his own golf dreams through his son) and the realization that he doesn’t know who he is anymore or what he wants out of life, Luke agrees to stay.
“It was nice to play a part like that,” Robert Duvall says of Johnny, who stands in stark contrast to the actor’s most recent role as a hermit seeking reconciliation in 2010’s Get Low. “He’s kind of a mentor person.”
An Academy Award winner and a veteran of over one hundred films, Duvall points to Marlon Brando in his own acting career as a mentor of sorts who influenced himself as well as other young actors of his generation. And he sees the value in anyone taking the time to reach out and help someone else.
In a week’s time, Johnny guides Luke through a series of unorthodox exercises designed to help him see that becoming who you were meant to be has nothing to do with winning, and everything to do with how you approach the game.
“How could a game have such an effect on a man’s soul?” Johnny asks in narration at one point in the film. “The way I see it, how could it not?”
Through fly fishing, piloting a small plane, painting on canvas and even a round of “cowboy poker,” Luke begins to find his rhythm, balance and patience and see that God’s purpose in his life is “deeper than a little white ball falling into a cup.”
Let’s Get Real
Just as authenticity is important to movie-going golfers and sports fans who may have been disappointed by golf films from years past (Tin Cup, etc.), making the putt and making it believable was something of great importance to actor Lucas Black as well. The Alabama native and new father to a nine-week-old baby girl not only had to work alongside a legendary actor (again, as he and Duvall co-starred in Get Low), but also had to play the game with real skills as the down-and-out golfer.
“I was real adamant about making that part of the movie realistic,” he explains about filming the shots Luke must play in many scenes. “So it was a conversation I had with the [film] director and the director of photography on making sure that the golf shots that I hit weren’t CGI’d, and I wanted them to go through a normal routine.”
Said to be “probably the best golfer Hollywood has ever had in its midst,” Black is a scratch golfer who says he plays golf and competes in amateur tournaments when he’s not shooting a film. He also credits his golf coach, Rick Grayson from Springfield, Missouri, as someone who has been a mentor in his life when it comes to his game.
Upping the authenticity level yet another notch is the community found in Seven Days in Utopia’s location and supporting cast. For the golf tournament scenes, the cast and crew traveled to Boot Ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas which was designed by PGA legend Hal Sutton.
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