Actor Jim Caviezel talks about Madison

Madison is a sports drama full of thrilling boat races with deadly accidents and tense competitions. But what appealed to star Jim Caviezel were the family themes of the piece. The true story of the 1971 Madison, Indiana hydro-plane regatta tells of a poor town where people are leaving to find work, and the man who sticks it out to revitalize his home.

"The father has an opportunity to go and take a job in another town, everyone is leaving and rightly so, he has to find work," Caviezel said. "But the story is seen through the boy's eyes, and seeing through that, yeah, you could make more money and do something there, but the integrity of character and all the hardships and triumphs, this is what the story is about to me."

Caviezel met the real family of Jim McCormick, the character he plays in the film. "I spent a lot of time with Bonnie [McCormick] and talking to her and asking her about stories. 'What did he do in this situation?' I talked to his son. I kept going back to that point where his son kept looking at him and to me when he looked up and saw his dad, it was like how many fathers, number one, ever get to feel that ever because they don't want a kid. Or if they have a kid they'll accept responsibility and so much of American families and families in general don't experience this kind of thing. When I saw this footage, I said I've got to make this movie because that's what it's about to me, the family."

Past experience has shown Caviezel that middle American audiences do respond to the right kinds of movies, and he hopes Madison follows in tradition. "I think there's a big market in middle America and I think that it's been shown that there's a huge market out there. Business is business. It's money. And I've talked to people and I said, 'If you go to films that you don't like for your kids and you support them, those are the films that are going to get made.' The films whether it's Passion or Madison, whether you go or don't go, that's what gets made. It's wherever the dollar goes, that's what gets made."

The 2001 film did not find distribution until 2005, despite high marks from festivals. "You look at independent films and if you can get them on the screen you're lucky. And we showed this at Sundance and Jeff Gilmore, I remember, came up to me afterwards and he runs Sundance there, and he said that Redford saw the film, and that it wasn't really the kind of film that they normally show here. He said that it just touched the both of them. They showed it there and it got a great reaction. It got a standing ovation and it's still an independent film and at the end of the day we were lucky to make it happen.

I gave my salary up for this film because we ran out of money and they were continually trying to make these boats float, the old ones and they were just killing us. So you have a story about a guy trying to keep the boat floating, we had a film crew running around trying to do the same thing."

As the film portrays many of the fatal accidents that can occur in the races, Caviezel recalled the true stories. "In fact, one race, three different men, it was the Capital Cup in I think 1971 and 1972, and Nixon, the president would give the trophy, and in that race three drivers died in three different accidents. They had to stop the race, pull a body out and start again. But what they've done now is that those were the old World War II engines and now they're using turbines, jet engines. They go a lot faster now, but they also have a cockpit and back then, throwing you from the wreck, there was no seat belt. They wanted you to be thrown from the wreck. That was your only chance of survival."

Caviezel had a driver with him, but still considered riding in the boats the most dangerous thing he's ever done. "It's not just being in a race car. It's a wake. If the water changes in just a little tiny way, it can make that boat go air born. The only thing that's keeping that thing from flying is wings. But if there's any air that gets underneath it they fly and if the driver doesn't get out of the boat in time, he gets crushed to death."

Madison is now playing in select cities.