The Mighty Macs—a film about the 1971 Immaculata College basketball team's unlikely championship run—has been a long time coming.
As producer Tim Chambers told a crowd at Edgmont Country Club Wednesday afternoon, it was scheduled to hit theaters last year, but his friends in the NCAA and marketing industry told him to wait a bit longer.
It made little sense to debut the movie 39 years after the true story, they said. Better to round up to an even 40.
"One more year pushing that boulder up a hill," Chambers told about 40 people at the Press Club luncheon.
Chambers also wrote and directed the film, which will open in about 1,000 theaters October 21.
At the luncheon, he related some of the funny and poignant stories behind the movie, including his questionable decision to give the college, now co-ed Immaculata University, script approval. In the end, he said, the Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns who run the school only cut one scene, depicting alcohol-fueled tailgating festivities.
Chambers said he was proud to have kept the movie G-rated, despite pressure to do otherwise.
"We actually stood our ground in working with Sony and some of our releasing partners in LA. They wanted us to change it to a PG film and add some things in the film that we didn't feel were morally responsible," Chambers said.
He joked that old acquaintances would be surprised to find him a "prude" and the "face of women's empowerment" in his role creating the film.
The Mighty Macs opening was increased from 250 screens to over 1,000 based anticipated public response. Before the Oct. 21 opening, there will be a premiere at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia Oct. 14. Proceeds from the sale of $150 tickets will benefit Coaches Vs. Cancer. Mighty Macs coach Cathy Rush fought cancer, as did cast member Katie Hayek.
Theresa Grentz, a player from the '71 team, and Hayek, who plays a college-age Grentz in the movie, also spoke to the crowd Wednesday.
Here is a bit of what was said:
On filming on location: "The great thing about Immaculata, the furniture hasn't changed in 40 years."
On casting: "We had about 500 girls auditioning for 7 roles. ... We wouldn't allow them to read for roles until I saw them play basketball."
On the movie industry: "There's a big divide between what we're being fed and what we want."
Theresa Grentz, an original Mighty Macs player who makes a cameo in the film as a nun:
On casting: "All my teammates were saying who they wanted, Cindy Crawford. Forget that—this kid better be able to shoot."
On Chambers and producing a film during economic turmoil: "I give Tim a lot of credit. He could have bailed on this a couple times. I know Disney had a very lucrative offer ... and I'm really proud of him because he did hold true."
Katie Hayek, an actor and former University of Miami basketball player, who portrays Grentz in the film:
On fighting cancer during filming: "It was the most bittersweet time, getting cast and finding out I had cancer at the same time. A lot of people asked me, How did you do it? ... I don't know how I would have done it without this movie. It kept me going, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me."
On the humbling experience of sharing a plane ride with Mighty Macs coach Cathy Rush: "She said 'How old are you?' I was like, '27.' She goes, 'huh.' And I go, 'What?' And she goes, 'No, no I was just thinking. When I was 27, I already had three national championships, and was married with two kids.'"