by C.J. Darlington
The Mighty Macs Interview with:
Theresa Grentz/Katie Hayek
movie really is about peeling back that onion and finding how it
relates to each individual and where they are in their life and the
equality of their dreams. [It encourages them] to go after them and
have the courage to do it."
--Theresa Grentz, real life Mighty Mac
She Dared to Dream. They Dared to Believe.
It’s 1971. Cathy Rush is a woman ahead of her time … and she’s about to embark on an adventure for the ages.
As the coach of tiny Immaculata College, Cathy’s challenges are as imposing as the big-school teams her Macs will face. While it appears they don’t have a prayer, all hope is not lost.
Will this pioneer buck cultural norms and spur her rag-tag team to unexpected heights? Or will her hard-driving ways create a wedge between the coach and everyone around her?
ready to cheer on a true Cinderella team when THE MIGHTY MACS is now
playing in theaters.
We caught up with actress Katie Hayek (who plays Trish Sharkey in the film), and Theresa Grentz (one of the real life Mighty Macs) to talk about the movie.
When did you first find out about the interest in making a movie based on your team’s experiences, and what did you think about that?
THERESA: This is not the first rodeo with this film over the years. There have been others who have attempted to make one and have gone down this path. They take it so far, and then it falters. When it came back up again, and we were contacted, we were like, “Okay, here we go again.” We wondered how far this one was going to go and if we wanted to get involved. It takes an awful lot of time, we tell the same stories over and over, and then it falls through. This time I think Cathy [Rush] was a little more apprehensive, but Tim Chambers was determined. He’s a Delaware County guy, he understands it, he gets it. When everyone gets introduced to each other they always say which parish are you from, which is a Philly/Delaware County thing, and I think ownership for the project was really critical in bringing it to where it is today. He could’ve bailed on it several times from a financial standpoint, he could’ve bailed on the mission and the goals that he wanted, but he stayed true to it. I think we really have to take our hats off to Tim Chambers in that.
As far as where we are, we [the original team] got a kick out of when they called and said they’d like us to do a cameo. I was still coaching at the time, and I was like, right . . . what do you have in mind? They said, "We’d like you to play either a referee or a coach." At that point I said, “No, I don’t think so.” They were very disheartened and asked what the problem was. I said, “I think it’s obvious what I want to do. I want to be a nun.” So we played nuns in this thing, and we had a pretty good time. It’s a little cameo, but it was fun. Now when you see the film, it’s a good story, and that’s great, but what’s the movie about? Katie has talked about this in other interviews, and I agree . . . I think the movie really is about peeling back that onion and finding how it relates to each individual and where they are in their life and the equality of their dreams. [It encourages them] to go after them and have the courage to do it.
Were you guys the cheerleading nuns in the film?
THERESA: No, no . . . basketball players are never cheerleaders. Even in movies. We are the nuns in one of the early scenes in the church where Carla Gugino comes in and needs a seat. We all slide over. That row of nuns are the original Mighty Macs.
Well, Katie, Tim Chambers has talked about how he didn’t cast any of the roles without first seeing the actors play basketball first. How did that time go for you, and why did you want this role in the first place?
KATIE: I grew up playing basketball, and I had always been performing and doing small school and church plays when I was younger. I played in high school and then went on to play in college where I majored in theater. We had heard about the casting call when I moved back to Lancaster (I went to college in Miami, Florida). It was at Immaculata, and all the girls lined the hallways, and we went in, had a few drills, and Tim said we weren’t going to be able to read for a role until we proved to him that we could actually play basketball and dribble and shoot.
Was that nerve wracking?
I had been playing basketball my whole life, but the most nerve wracking thing is leaving there because you wait so long to get into Tim to show him a few drills, and then you’re done, and you feel like you haven’t shown him enough. You hoped you did the best you could while you were in the room. That’s the life of an actor. I was just hoping I could at least impress him a little bit. (Laughs.)
THERESA: People ask, did we know what we were doing then would be the vision of today, and the truth of the matter was, we were just a bunch of kids. We were interested in our next date, or what we were going to be doing. We loved playing ball, we really did. The virtuous friendships that developed from that team have stood the test of time. We cared about each other. We made each other better because we were around each other, and you would never disappoint. But we didn’t have a clue.
Do you have a particular story about Cathy Rush and how she impacted you as a player?
THERESA: Cathy was just a couple years older than we were, but we never called her coach. We called her Mrs. Rush, because that’s the way you were taught. We were playing in the second national championship game. You played four games in three days, and I made the awful mistake of at half time while I was standing next to her saying, “Geez, am I tired.” And she looked at me as if to say, you have all summer to rest. I never forgot it. When I was coaching you ask someone who’s seventeen or eighteen how they are, and the first thing they say is, “I’m tired.” I don’t know if this is a word, but we have to get untired. She was not a screamer or a hollerer. She just made her point and then let you think about it for awhile.
To give you an idea of how accurately Carla played Cathy, when I went on set for the very first time I ran into Carla, and she put her hand out to shake my hand. I must’ve looked like . . . I was baffled because I was back at that time. She looked so much like Cathy, and I thought, “Wow, this is deja vu. Except I’m not eighteen years old.” She did a great job. They did a great job in casting. The actors and actresses really cared for the roles and the real mission of the movie.
I was reading another interview with Tim and he was looking for athletes that could’ve played in the 70s and comparing the differences between the athletes of then and the athletes of today. Could you share with us some of the differences?
THERESA: To me, today’s athletes have so many more opportunities, but the time is so consumed. Cathy would give us a training schedule, and she would say, okay in the summer go do this. Well, we had jobs. Today they have training tables and coaches, there are academic advisers, charter planes, hotels . . . when we stayed in a hotel when we went to that first championship, we had two rooms. For eight of us. In two rooms!
What was the most memorable on set moment for you, Katie?
Actually meeting Theresa and Cathy. I was nervous when Tim told me Cathy was coming on set and I was getting ready to meet her. As actors you often don’t play someone who’s real. It’s a character, but it’s not a real person usually. It was really exciting to have that experience to learn from Theresa and the team about the things that they did, whether it was used in the movie or not. It was cool to be able to live vicariously through that.
Theresa has a great story about the tunnel scene in the movie. That night it was so cold. They had some heat lamps around and everything, but it was just so crazy that we’re filming a basketball movie that’s during the winter basketball season, so to have that work out perfectly and see our breath when we were actually filming the scenes . . . we all like to think that was Divine intervention there! Then the next day it was eighty degrees. Things like that working out are cool stories to have today. As cold as we were, we were so excited to be able to say, “You could see our breath! It’s really working out.”
Another of my favorite scenes in the movie is the “Dream Scene” where your character, Katie, is talking to Cathy. Now you were facing some dire circumstances while filming after receiving your cancer diagnosis. Did what you were going through personally make any of the scenes more poignant for you? And what would you say is your favorite scene in the movie?
It changes for me all
the time! This is my biggest project thus far, so the whole movie is
but being diagnosed with cancer a lot people
ask me how I did it. First of all, any cancer survivor will tell you,
you just do it. You get through it. Having the movie was so good for me
during chemo because it was something to look forward to. That four months
of chemo probably would’ve felt like forever if I didn’t have
this movie to enjoy because it’s what I wanted to do for so long.
Probably the championship scene was really fun because it was just mass
chaos of cheering, and hugging everyone, and you knew what was going to
happen in the movie, but to film that scene was so cool. The tunnel scene
was one of my favorites too. Ask me tomorrow, and it might be different!
Theresa, do you have any advice for young girls who aspire to play basketball?
The fact that there is a film that they can actually see with women playing and being role models I think is great. When I look back, that’s what we were. We didn’t ask to be role models, we were role models. It chose us. We played in front of packed houses in Villa Nova Field House and Cardinal High School during the oil embargo, and Katie, you won’t remember this . . . but people had to buy their gasoline based on the last digit of their license plate. It gives them something to shoot for and be a part of. If I were that young and knew there was a movie coming out, I’d be begging my mother and father to see it. I’d want to see someone else who could give me a visual picture of how I could do this, how I could make my dream happen.
Besides The Mighty Macs, what are your favorite sports movies of all time.
KATIE: Mine is The Pistol : The Birth of a Legend
THERESA: I guess I’ll show my age and say the Lou Gehrig story . . . The Pride of the Yankees.
Is there anything else either of you would like to say?
THERESA: [I want to share] the wholesomeness of this picture. I think today’s society needs their moral compass to point north a little bit more, and perhaps if you could parlay that message, I’d be grateful. I know myself, my teammates and Coach Rush feel the same way.
WATCH THE TRAILER for The Mighty Macs:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.