SEATTLE — From working overnights at a grocery store to becoming Super Bowl MVP, “American Underdog” tells a made-for-Hollywood story that's also true.
"Most of the stuff that's in the movie played out very similarly to how it did in real life,” said Kurt Warner, the NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback whose life inspired the film.
He’s played by Zachary Levi, who mastered many of Warner’s physical characteristics on and off the field.
The movie begins during his college days when he met the love of his life Brenda, (played by Oscar-winner Anna Paquin,) who was a single mother of two. Much of the film focuses on their challenges and mutual support.
"How I needed Brenda and what she brought — what a lot of people might look at as baggage, how key that was in shaping who I was,” Warner said. "To me, one of the greatest messages that I have in my life and that we kind of resonate in our family is you can't ever let your circumstances define you."
For years, their circumstances were tough – Warner’s football dreams went unrealized and they were often living paycheck to paycheck. But commitment to family kept them going, especially Warner’s adopted son Zack who suffered a brain injury as an infant.
The Warners lobbied for filmmakers to cast a blind actor in his role.
"You oftentimes see individuals without disabilities playing those with disabilities in movies. And one of our big messages in life and that we're kind of promoting now through our son is embracing those differences,” Warner said.
Much like Warner’s eventual success on the field, making the movie was an uphill battle more than 10 years in the making. But he said a wide Christmas Day release following nearly two years of a pandemic is meant to be.
“It feels like the perfect time,” he said. "Being able to see everybody's struggle and being able to understand how together you can overcome those things. There's a great line in the movie, 'Sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do while you're waiting to do what you want to do.' And that to me is life."
The film is ultimately a wholesome, heartfelt, sentimental tale designed to make audiences feel good — something Warner believes everyone can benefit from.
"If there's anything this movie inspires people with, it's that you gain a greater appreciation for the journey once you're through it,” he said.
“American Underdog” is rated PG and out now on Blu-ray and DVD.