When actor Brian Presley recently returned to a familiar area of the country for him — Dallas — to promote his new movie, “Touchback,” bad weather hit, keeping some of the viewers away from the premiere.
Even some of the Los Angeles types associated with the film missed the event when their plane was diverted to El Paso, Texas, because of the April 3 tornadoes around Dallas, said Presley, who was born in Odessa, Texas, but moved to Jenks at age 7.
Presley noted in a recent phone interview that the Dallas storms offered a poignant parallel to a key message of his film about a down-on-his-luck former high school football star: When the storms of life hit, we look at what's truly important to us.
“Thank God nobody lost their life yesterday (in Dallas),” Presley said.
In “Touchback,” Presley stars as Scott Murphy, the family man and farmer still known around his small Midwest town of Coldwater as “Mr. Football.” His touchdown years ago on the last play of the game resulted in the town school's only state high school championship, but it also mangled his leg and his dreams of a promising, lucrative career in football.
Co-stars include Kurt Russell as the football coach, Christine Lahti as Murphy's mother and Melanie Lynskey as his wife. Presley's company, Freedom Films, produced it.
“We were really lucky with the cast we got, and it was awesome,” Presley said. “Working with Kurt Russell was really a dream come true.”
In “Touchback,” “if only ...” is a lament of Murphy's as his circumstances in life go from bad to worse, especially as he dreams of the financial freedom that a football career could have brought him. Soon, in an “It's a Wonderful Life” kind of moment, he gets his chance at a do-over and finds himself back in high school, preparing for the big game with the chance of having circumstances turn out differently.
“It's easy to look back and go ‘why?' but I think life is life and there's going to be storms we have to endure,” Presley said. “To me the movie is accepting life as the path that God has in store for us. Sometimes that can go against what we think our desires are, but God ultimately has a plan for everything.”
Presley played football when he lived in Jenks years ago and had to do some “hard-core training” for the movie to play the sport again at age 34, he said, adding that he did most of his own stunts and really got into “the grit of the game.”
“I think people in this part of the world will really identify with this movie, given the small-town feel ..., the football vibe and communities rallying around each other.”
Presley is an award-winning actor who attended the University of Southern California School of Business and moved onto producing movies in 2004, when he formed Freedom Films. The company's first film was “Guarding Eddy,” where Murphy played the role of Eddy Patterson, an adult living with autism. Presley won Best Actor at the Boston International Film Festival for his portrayal of “Eddy” and the film won Best Film.
Production on his next project, “Thunder Run,” has begun, and in it, he will star along with Gerard Butler, Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey. It is based on the nonfiction book “Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad” by Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent David Zucchino.
As he talked about his current project, the conversation turned several times to his Christian faith, even though the film isn't about faith. His goal in the film was to tell an inspirational story, and his own journey shares some similarities with the character he plays.
At times, life in Hollywood, its wealth and his own selfishness pulled him away from God, he said.
“Ultimately, that leads not necessarily to a great place,” Presley said. “It just so happened that God brought a project that had a lot of parallels to my own life. The movie is about second chances.”
Much of Presley's family still lives in the Tulsa area, and he planned to head in that direction for Easter weekend.
Some of the proceeds from the film are going to Farm Aid, to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and to Joel Osteen's ministry and his “message of hope,” Presley said.
“Without hope we can't have faith and without faith we can't reach God,” he added.