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Terrence Howard • Bernie Mac • Kimberly Elise • Evan Ross • Kevin Phillips
DIRECTOR: Sunu Gonera

Terrence Howard stars as Jim Ellis THE CONCEPT:
Inspired by the life of Jim Ellis (Howard), a charismatic schoolteacher in the 1970s who changed lives forever by founding and coaching an African-American swim team in one of Philadelphia’s roughest neighborhoods.

U.S. RELEASE: March 23 2007, Nationwide • Rated: PG


“I didn’t know about Jim Ellis’s work until I sat down with him in this little café in a little town in Philadelphia called Lafayette Hill. I had just come off a whole lot of Oscar stuff, and I was exhausted and tired of smiling, and Jim looked at me and in one moment he calmed my nature. He asked ‘Why do you want to play me?’ And I didn’t have an answer; the only thing I could say was because I felt my whole mood shift. He has the ability of subtle suggestion, and everyone who listens to him becomes susceptible to that. I wanted to know where that power comes from. And then after going and watching him coach, I still don’t know, perhaps it’s just the fact that he cares.”

BERNIE MAC (Elston):
“Doing a dramatic part was easy. A lot of people don’t know I started dramatic; comedy is something you all know I can do. I introduced myself with comedy, and once you’ve done that that’s where people keep you. But Miss Hunter in 4th grade started me in drama.”

“I didn’t know how to swim before the movie. I knew how to swim underwater but I didn’t know how to freestyle so, prior to the film, we had a month of training and in that month I learned how to swim and got into shape and was prepared to play Andre.”

EVAN ROSS (Reggie):
“I grew up swimming but I haven’t been trained so when we actually had that month of training, it was a struggle. Mostly, for me, it was about endurance, I was cramping up and I was tired. They pushed us to the limit, and I think we felt like we were on a team and it brought us all closer.”

“I felt like I was training to be an astronaut or something like that, because I spent anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 yards a day of swimming. To put that in perspective, it’s 25 yards across the pool, so you’re talking about 150 to 200 laps a day. Your shoulders are tired; your spirit is tired; you hate water. You’re wrinkled up like you’re 95 years old. It was hard.”

“Terrence is just such an extraordinary actor. He never makes the cliché choice. I love working with an actor who’s intelligent and creative.”

“Jim Ellis is still fighting to build a suitable recreational facility where he can instruct students. One out of three African Americans can’t swim. Can you imagine being a parent and you can’t save your child if they fall into a pool? So I have a great deal of respect for this man.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Feature © 2007 Visual Imagination.
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Film Review, #681, April 2007 cover

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