Interview by Christine Thompson
RELEASE DATE: In Theaters December 25th, 2021
AMFM: Last Time we talked to you was for “October Baby” – a lot of time has passed. We love this film, “American Underdog” is great, a tear jerker, how much did your background as an ESPN cameraman influence you?
ANDY ERWIN: For us, I remember I was a cameraman for ESPN, I was working the superbowl with my brother John back in 2001, during Kurt Warner’s second Superbowl with Tom Brady, his first, in New Orleans. I remember being on the sidelines at the end of the game and watching Kurt interact with this spiky-haired lady in the stand, it was his wife Brenda – and I thought “I want to know the story behind that – that needs to be a movie.” I wasn’t even directing film at that time, although I was aspirationally headed that way.
Fast forward 20 years later, and John and I get to tell this story – it’s come full circle, to be able to sit down with the Warner’s and (have) us be chosen to be the ones to tell their story.
As we dug into it, and hearing a part of the story we didn’t even know, how beautiful a redemption underdog story it was about this family trying to stick together – Kurt being out of football for five years working in a supermarket, then ends up going to the superbowl where he ended up superbowl MVP as the lowest paid player of the league that year. I think it’s a story that spoke volumes right now to where people are at emotionally. We kept pinching ourselves, how has this story not been told? How do we get to be the ones to tell it? It was a tremendous full circle moment to go back to our roots and see that story come to life.
AMFM: How did you get to be the ones to tell it?
ANDY: Kevin Downes, our producing partner, had been a long time Kurt Warner fan. He’s a season ticket holder for the Arizona Cardinals, which Kurt went to at the second half of his career, and took them to the superbowl.
I had a friend reach out to us and say, I think the rights are available, you ought to sit down with the Warners. So we went to Phoenix, and they had seen “I Can Only Imagine,” and were aware of our body of work.
So we sat down, but we were very much on trial. Like, we walked in, and we weren’t on trial with Kurt, it was Brenda. She was looking at us like “are these guys qualified to handle our family story?”
We really listened to their heartbeat, because it had to be a partnership. And they said “it’s not really just about football, it’s about our relationship off the field, and our oldest son Zach, who has a disability and is blind.”
We said ok, that’s the story we want to tell.
We compared notes after the meeting, walked out the door, got a text from their agent saying “they love you, you passed the test, you’re in.”
Then we started really digging in with interviews, getting all the ins and outs of the story, and all the DNA was there to be a magnificent movie, and we’re really privileged to do them justice
AMFM: I think you did, and that goes back to the old saying “Behind every great man, is a great woman, pushing him.”
ANDY: This story elevates that saying a little bit farther than that. With Kurt and Brenda what made it really beautiful wasn’t just a wife that was hidden, it was a partnership between the two of them and God, and it was really the three of them together. They were following their faith, and fighting for their family. They were equals in their journey, and both fighting for something they both felt called to do.
Anna Paquin brought Brenda to life in a way that was really beautiful.