The brother-sister team bring their family story to the big-screen
Gracie tells the story of a teenage girl who must fight for her right to play on the boys' high school soccer team. At the same time, she is dealing with the lose of her brother, a star soccer player in his own right and the only protector she has. Based on the Shue family's own tragic lose of a sibling, the film is a fictionalized take on how Elizabeth Shue managed to work her way into the male dominated sport.
Gracie is a family project for the Shues. Andrew Shue has been trying to bring the story of his childhood to the big screen for the last ten years, and the film is finally complete.
The Shues recently paired up to talk about the facts and the fiction that went into the making of their film. It was directed by Elizabeth's husband, Davis Guggenheim. Here is their story:
How much of this film is real, and how much of it is fiction?
Elizabeth Shue: That is kind of a long answer, but I will give you the short version. We set out to make a fictional story, yet so much is true and based on our real lives. There is a balance that is about eighty-twenty. Some of the events are arranged in different times. The heart and the true kind of feeling of the movie does come from a lot of truth. If you wanted us to go into every single detail, you guys would probably get really bored.
How were you and Davis, your husband and the director, able to work together?
Elizabeth Shue: Yeah, how was that possible? What did he say? You know, I'm lucky that my husband happens to be incredibly talented, and I have so much respect for him that I could listen to him. We did have to set some ground rules. The only thing that mattered was that when we were on the set, we had to play the roles of actor-director. Even if I disagreed with him. He is my best friend, and best friends discuss things immediately. But if I had a problem, we would have to talk about it outside of the set. Once we established that ground rule, we got along incredibly well. There were a few moments of tension.
Did you step away from those arguments, Andrew?
Andrew Shue: They had fewer conflicts than Davis and I had. I think why Davis and I had such a tough time, is that Davis is a perfectionist. He knew how important this was to us, and he knew that at the end of the day he was the one responsible for telling the story. And telling it in a real way. We had a finite budget. We didn't have a studio that could give us another five shooting days. They couldn't just send us another five million dollars. It is really difficult, so you are constantly making compromises. Where are you going to put your time. We had to decide on that stuff together. And sometimes you find yourself at odds as to what the call is.
Elizabeth Shue: At the end of the day you start to appreciate the fight. Because, you realize that it is everyone trying to make this as good as it can be. I think that's why the movie works so well. Everybody really had passion for it, and everyone's territory was fully engaged. The creative conflicts that came out of that make the movie what it is.
Were there ideas about the family that you guys wanted in the film, that Davis didn't want in the film?
Andrew Shue: No. He probably wanted more. He wanted more real ideas. He wanted every single moment. We kept pulling back on how much we would divulge.
How much of your family's inner secrets were you willing to show on screen? Was that the tough part? Not to revel too much?
Andrew Shue: At the end of the day, we'd already recreated the gray areas. Nobody will ever really know. The emotional truth had to be there. And I think that's what drives the film. The layers, about who these people are, are created. I don't want to list the fifty things about my mom that were similar and the fifty things about my mom that were different. At the end of the day, with this type of story telling, you have to pull from what you know. I'm sure people will watch it and say, "I saw my mom there." Or, "I saw my dad there." That's what were hoping to do. Get people to relate to it in their own real lives. I can rattle off a whole bunch of truths that are in the film. Our brother did nurse a hawk back to life. My sister did steal my dead father's car and drive it down the shore without a license. I did get called off the bench. I was Gracie in many respects. I was the one that missed the penalty kick that lost the championship game. Not my brother. I did get called off the bench, and ended up scoring the winning goal with twenty seconds left in the game. I actually played in a game that was dedicated to my brother, where we all wore armbands. It was the opening game. There are all these different real things. My dad did have to go to a board of education hearing, and he did have to speak. Those are some of the real things that happened. And we put them into this story in a way that made sense.
Whose decision was it to make Gracie younger than you really were
Elizabeth Shue: I don't know. Again, we were setting out to make a fictional story. I played soccer with boys from when I was nine to fourteen. That wasn't important. What was important was this spirit of what it is like to be a girl in an all-male world. I don't think we really tried to make it so true to my own life.
Andrew Shue: We didn't start out by saying, "Let's make our family story." We just wanted to make an underdog story about a family that is getting over a tragedy. We felt that the high school years was the right time. People can really relate to that time.
Elizabeth Shue: Davis, my husband, was really, really adamant. He wanted to make it much more authentic. And much more real. In the beginning, we were more reluctant, and wondered whether that was a good idea. He really gave us the courage to make it as authentic as it could be. We didn't want it to be a sports movie. And all great sports movies are actually dramas. The Karate Kid, Rocky, and Rudy. In all of those stories, there is a sport that's played, but it is really just a way to work out a drama that is taken place between characters.
Did you guys ever think about ending the game after the tryouts, instead of ending with the big game finale?
Elizabeth Shue: No.
Andrew Shue: In trying to figure out how to make a sports film work, where the sport doesn't take over the story, we found out its kind of like action films. You can't forget about the people. Well, in order to get the sport out of the way, we didn't want it to be about a whole team winning a championship. It was about an individual trying to make it. But at the end of the day, you want to see that gladiator in the arena. You build towards that in sports film, where the game has to be on. I think the tryouts were a great step for the character. But any good film that has that drama is going to have to have the big game at the end.
Elizabeth Shue: The real victory I always thought, was the day she went to play JV. That's what means the most to me. At the moment that she didn't get what she wanted, she didn't quit. So, maybe next year she would make the varsity team. It is a miraculous moment where she is on the bench, and she is given that opportunity. And she comes through. That is the beauty of moviemaking. That you get to have those magical moments. And Andrew actually had that moment, when he played in the game at Dartmouth and they all wore the armbands. He scored two goals. He'd never scored two goals in a game. My brother's spirit was in the air. It was that same kind of feeling. Sometimes moments happen that are surreal, but are really true. They are truly magical.
Andrew Shue: We had a moment of silence before the game. And then I score on this rip shot, and you could feel that Will's spirit was there. My body wasn't even working. He was working my body.
Elizabeth Shue: That's what we wanted to accomplish with this game at the end of the movie. It wasn't just about a goal being scored. But what happens when the spirit of someone you have lost can motivate and inspire you to great moments.
Davis was talking about how you both have children, and if they score a goal, you will give them three dollars?
Elizabeth Shue: (Laughs) I can't believe him. Why is he telling you guys this? My god. I can't believe that. We're going to have to have a talk.
Andrew Shue: I did do something with my kids. It worked. They were all bunched up, and they couldn't figure out how to find their positions. I said, "Look, I have a prize after the game for the kid that can stay on this side of the field. And I have a prize for the kid that can stay in the middle. If you are actually the one that switches the ball to the guy in the middle, I have a prize for you, too." You wouldn't believe how they were knocking this ball around, all staying in position.
Elizabeth Shue: Sometimes, kids need an incentive. It all started with Miles. Miles is a great playmaker, but he is someone who has never really tasted a goal. So I was trying to inspire him to be hungry to score a goal, so that when he scored the goal, he would recognize what that felt like. Then maybe he'd want to score more. I thought the experience would train him. It was character training.
Do you feel yourself trying not to be like your own parents when it comes to coaching these kids?
Elizabeth Shue: Definitely. I practice being really quite when I'm at their games. I really have to. At first, I wasn't. But then I recognized other parents screaming. Even in encouraging their kids. That loudness must really affect them. The AYSO has silent Sunday, where no one is aloud to cheer. Which is amazing. They just enforce it. And you can hear the kids actually talking to each other. They have to hear each other, and that's what its all about. I'm never going to cheer again unless its after they score.
After ten years, is this a load off your shoulders?
Andrew Shue: I wish I could just sit back and say that it is amazing. Because it is. But the job is never done. We have to figure out how we are going to release it in Canada. And we are already working on the DVD. It's just a process, from the business side, we want to make sure the investors get their money back. We want people to hear this story, so you hope people will pass on the word. We know that we're a little bit of a different movie than what is out there. It takes people like yourselves to take note of that fact.
How is it being released in the states?
Andrew Shue: It's being released on a thousand screens on June 1st. We are advertising on TV a lot. We were on American Idol last night. It's a word of mouth movie. It's not going to have a huge opening weekend.
How do you feel about the Adventures In Babysitting remake?
Elizabeth Shue: I'm glad, at least, that they are reinventing it. It's not going to be the same movie. I don't really know, I haven't heard too much about it. I think they are taking a step in the right direction. I think it is a little too early for them to be remaking it. Can't they wait until I'm dead? I'm excited that the movie is still out there, and that kids still watch it. I'm amazed at the kind of life it's had.
Any chance of a cameo for you?
Elizabeth Shue: I don't think so. No.
How was it trying to portray your mom in the film? Did you try and capture her spirit?
Elizabeth Shue: I defiantly wanted to play a different character than my actually mom. What I was really interested in was telling the generational difference between the mother, who didn't get to have the same opportunities as her daughter. What was complicated was that she wasn't instantly supportive of her daughter. She wasn't ready to fight for her. She was actually unnerved that her daughter was having this dream. And that she wasn't having the same kind of opportunities. It's just uncomfortably for her. I thought that was interesting. She is not fully able to embrace her daughter's role. She does at the moment it is important, manage to stand up for her daughter. It may change her life. She may go on to do something she never knew she could. Maybe she would go back to school and become a surgeon if she really wanted to. I loved that part of her character.
Gracie opens June 1st, 2007.