Golf & BusinessApril 16, 2015

Can "The Squeeze" buck the trend of bad golf movies?

Terry Jastrow is the writer and director of "The Squeeze," a new golf movie opening in theaters and video on demand Friday. Jastrow, 66, worked for more than 20 years as a producer and director at ABC Sports. We spoke to him recently for Golf Digest Stix about bringing his story to the big screen. You can see the trailer below, along with an extended version of our Q&A.

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Why make a golf movie? Their track record isn't great.

Like all golfers, I love to see movies with golf in them. And I had what I think is a pretty entertaining story to tell. But, you go all the way through the list of golf movies, "Follow The Sun" to "Tin Cup," and with all due respect to the actors in them, you can tell pretty quickly you're watching an actor, not a real golfer. The narrative is constantly being ruptured. So I knew I couldn't make this movie until I found actors who could really play.

How did you do that?

There were more than 1,000 submissions for the lead role of Augie. We interviewed and auditioned, but the last three I took to Bel-Air Country Club, walked them to the first tee and said, "Play away please." And Jeremy Sumpter [who got the job] can really play. He has a really good swing. During the round I asked him if he could play a shot left-handed. He said, "I'm not too good at that," but then took his putter and with the back flange he flipped the ball in the air and whacked it on to the green from 120 yards. I said, "Damn, I'm putting that in the movie."

Why do you think golf movies have had such trouble connecting with audiences?

I think some of the golf movies have been too golf centric, too focused on the game. I think our movie has a broad appeal. It's more "The Sting" meets "Tin Cup." It's a heist. So you get lost in the story. For me it's a little like "The Color of Money." It's Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. You wouldn't say that's a pool movie. It's a really cool, gambler, heist, intrigue character piece.

In what ways did your experience directing tournament golf help you?

I think it boils down to the common denominator of storytelling. I grew up with the great boss and mentor and friend, Roone Arledge. And his mantra was the human drama of athletic competition. It never was only about the action. So I think my 22 years at ABC Sports while the genre was different, the fundamental lessons of it was story telling, in order to create an entertaining and compelling a program.

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What was the biggest challenge in making the movie?

We shot 14 days in North Carolina and six days in Las Vegas. And every day you go on the set, regardless of how much preparation you've done, and there is just from sunup to sunset literally hundreds and probably thousands of decisions you have to make. And I tell you, I have been a producer or director to eight Olympic Games, one Super Bowl, and 62 major championships of golf, and it's the hardest thing I've ever done, but on the other hand it's so thrilling. You're say to yourself, "I'll get tired afterward."

Is the toughness because when you're directing a sporting event, you only have control over so much? Directing a movie, you have control over everything.

It does. And you know early on [with TV coverage] you do two hours of a golf tournament. The first 18 holes of live golf every covered was 1977 at the U.S. Open at Southern Hills. It was won by Hubie Green, which I directed, I'm proud to say. So now you're up to four hours, five hours. And four days of doing it. so it's not just the intensity and volume, but the length the movie takes in comparison to a sporting event. The Olympics are like 16 days. Well they don't even compare to how challenging a movie is.

What was the most enjoyable part of doing the whole thing?

Well there were a lot of things. I had a ball. I loved my cast. Jeremy Sumpter, Christopher McDonald, Michael Nouri, Jillian Murray, Katherine LaNasa. I wanted to cast people who were terrific actors and great people. I didn't want any assholes on the set. And the collaborative process was great. I had a view as a director that I want to try to create an environment for an actor to be as great as he can be. So I don't really mandate an actor does this or that. I collaborate with them. I find out their way of working and I sort of collaborate with them in their sweet spot. And we just had a ball doing it. so working with our cast will be a lifetime memory of joy. And my wife, Anne Archer, was a producer. It was so great to have her on the set. I knew she always had my back. If I was stubbing my toe, she doesn't have any problem telling me about it. so working with Anne as well.

There seems a simple answer to this, but how will you judge whether the movie has been a success?

Well I think the first criteria is your own personal sense of it. Is it a reflection of what you had hoped it would be? And honestly, the movie is better than I ever thought it would be. And then you want the public to enjoy it because that's who you do it for.. And then thirdly, it's just a fact, how does it do commercially. And we think we're going to do very well there. I've been so pleased by the early response and reviews. So I'm really excited about it.

Terry Jastrow on the set of "The Squeeze."

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