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Former high school football star turned farmer and family man, Scott Murphy (Brian Presley) finds himself with a unique opportunity to revisit his glory days during the state championship game where he permanently injured his knee in a game-winning play. Given a second shot at his destiny, Scott seeks counsel from Coach Hand (Kurt Russell), Scott’s longtime mentor on and off the field, to help him decide whether to let his fate unfold, or follow a path that will change his future.
Written and Directed by Don Handfield, ‘Touchback’ also stars Melanie Lynskey (‘Win Win’, CBS’ “Two and a Half Men”), Mark Blucas (‘Knight and Day’) and Christine Lahti (‘Obsessed’, NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU”). Handfield gives his statement about the inspirational movie, released in April of this year.
“‘Touchback’ is a film about what it takes to choose your life exactly how it is, instead of regretting it because it’s not what you’d hoped it would be. The first draft of this script was written over a decade ago. It went through many revisions, but the spirit and themes and characters have, for the most part, remained intact.
“‘Touchback’ had many false starts and almost got made many times over the years, with several different studios with different directors at the helm, but for whatever reason it just kept coming back to me. It was always my dream to direct it, so I think a part of me was always a little relieved every time it fell apart and came back to me. Ultimately, it paid off when the current incarnation of ‘Touchback’ came together.”
“I was always moved by Capra’s classic film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. But while that film served as a broad source of cinematic inspiration, most of the emotional themes and events more specific to Touchback were influenced by personal events.
“The initial spark for the setting and events of behind Touchback came from several real life experiences that mirrored the experience of Scott Murphy in some ways – except the time travel. These include blowing out my knee as a high school wrestler, working on my Uncle’s dairy farm, and the collapse of my first marriage in my early twenties.
“In high school I was captain of my wrestling team, but during my senior year, my undefeated season came to an early end when I blew out my knee in practice. From the sidelines, I watched a wrestler from another school I had beaten during the season go on to win the district, the region and place 2nd in the state tournament. I always wondered ‘what if’ I hadn’t been hurt, and having another player’s success as an odd benchmark certainly made the feeling of regret and wonder more poignant. This served as the kernel of inspiration for the character of Murphy, and Hall as the benchmark of his ‘what could have been’ success.
“Another big factor in the development of this story was the summers I spent working on my Uncle’s dairy farm in a very small community in Connecticut as a boy. I experienced the world of ‘Touchback’ firsthand – the hard-working farm life, the tight-knit communities where everybody knows everybody (and their business) and the all-volunteer fire departments. The pace, the sense of community, the self-sufficiency, and underneath it all the nobility of the people who lived there spoke to me and it was my hope to both pay homage to the people and places like it.
“When I wrote the first draft of ‘Touchback’ many years ago, I was going through a divorce. My parents were divorced when I was small so I saw this as a colossal failure on my part and it made me question what it took to make it work despite the slings and arrows life threw your way. I believe we write about what we don’t fully understand – or the things we don’t have and we long for in our life. For me it was both a solid relationship and marriage, and a sense of family and community support from those around me.
“‘Touchback’ is a film about what it takes to choose your life exactly how it is, instead of regretting it for how you’d hoped it would be.
“In short, it’s about choice. The choice we make every day on how we view our life. Change your view – or your attitude – and you quite literally change your life.
“Modern films are often structured using Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grieving – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally, Acceptance – with the latter being the final emotion of the film – embodied by the main character’s acceptance of whatever he was in denial of in the first act.
“The problem with this emotional structure is that it was created as a model for dying, not for living. Acceptance has a bit of ‘settling’ or resignation to it, which is very different from choosing something, exactly how it is, warts and all; in other words, not choosing a situation despite its flaws, but because of them. That’s transformational. That’s magical. That’s the “Philosopher’s Stone” and that’s the power I believe we all have inside us as human beings.
“I always use the pound puppy analogy to try to explain choice versus acceptance. If you were picking a dog and went to the pound, you don’t accept the dog with half an ear and a stubby tail, you choose him because you like him the best. Because those flaws gave him the heart and soul and character that make him who he is.
“In a way, we need to choose our partners because of their flaws, not in spite of them. The flaws, the little imperfections, are what make people special. The same goes with relationships. And people. And towns. And our own pasts.
“I’ve often found in my own life that something I thought was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me often turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me because of the transformation it caused in my heart. That is certainly the case with Scott Murphy, and something I hope people take out of the theater on the way home.”