De La Salle High school insiders got a look Tuesday at perhaps the most anticipated high school sports film in local history in Pleasant Hill, just a few months before the story of the school's football team and its record breaking 151-win streak hits theaters all over America.
And there was even a bit of mystery surrounding the screening.
Even though so many know the story portrayed in "When The Game Stands Tall,' the screening at Century 16 Theater in Plesant Hill was hush-hush. Media members -- the few who were invited -- had to agree to not write about what the saw on their official publications. Which was sort of ironic as the movie was based on the book written by former Contra Costa Times writer Neil Hayes' book of the same name.
Even the emailed invite was hush-hush.
"The idea for this screening is twofold; to get feedback from the public prior to final release and to promote the film by sharing it with influential people in local communities. We think you will offer value to both objectives," read the invite, signed by Tim Roberts (class of '88, Director of Alumni Relations), Leo Lopoz ('94, Director of Athletics), and (Joe Koller '97, Founder of Slot Right Marketing.)
Later the invite referred to itself as "sensitive,"
Lopoz wasn't available for comment Thursday. Roberts seemed happy to talk, but acknowledged that he agreed not to.
"When the Game Stands Tall" is the film adaptation of former Contra Costa Times columnist Neil Hayes' 2003 book about coach Bob Ladouceur and Concord's record-breaking De La Salle football program.
Directed by Thomas Carter, the film follows the now-retired Ladouceur -- played by Jim Caviezel -- through the ups and downs of leading the Spartans through the team's 151-game winning streak that ran from 1992 to 2003 and shattered all records for any American sport.
Though some local sports writers were invited, they had to agree to not write about the screening for the publications for which they work. But that didn't stop them from posting on social media.
"Like 'Moneyball,' it obviously takes some liberties," longtime local prep sports writer Mitch Stephens wrote on Facebook. "Positives: Accurate, positive portrayal of DLS program and coach Bob Ladouceur, moving and tasteful rendition surrounding murder of Terrance Kelly, good performance by Jim Caviezel (Lad) and spot-on portrayal of Terry Eidson by Michael Chiklis."
Reached by telephone Thursday afternoon, Eidson said neither he nor Ladouceur were at the screening. As Eidson said "They said I didn't need to go. I've already seen it four times."
Stephens also wrote "As fellow scribe Matt Schwab astutely pointed out yesterday, it's difficult to tell a Goliath story in Hollywood. Most people want to hear and see and read about the David story's. But this one works because frankly the messages Ladouceur, Eidson and the program not only convey but have backed up for more than 30 years."
Schwab, who writes for Bay Area News Group and was invited to the screening, wrote on Facebook "I thought the performances were good. I especially enjoyed the stuff by the 'young men' in the film. As the years pass, we (sports writers, coaches, etc.) get a little longer in the tooth, but the student-athletes are seeing and experiencing everything for the first time. Whatever your opinion is about the De La Salle football juggernaut, the film leaves you with a distinct impression that the guys who buy into the program are in very good hands and are afforded every opportunity to become successful young men.
Former De La Salle star Patrick Walsh, now the head coach at Serra High School, said the film's portrayal of his former coach rang true.
"I think Caviezel and the plot held true to who Coach Lad really is and his message," Walsh said, in an email. "I was worried about that. Slamming 12 years into two hours must be tough but I would have liked for it to have for more chronologically with true events. I also know that creative liberties must be taken to make a Holywood movie but we never lost to Clayton Valley."
"When the Game Stands Tall' opens on Aug. 22.