Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ryan Little|
|Produced by||Adam Abel
Steven A. Lee
|Written by||David Pliler|
|Music by||J Bateman, Bart Hendrickson, Pieter Schlosser, Clay Duncan|
Picture Rock Entertainment
|Distributed by||Crane Movie Company
Excel Entertainment Group
|September 26, 2008|
Forever Strong is a sports film directed by Ryan Little and written by David Pliler and released on September 26, 2008. The film stars Sean Faris, Gary Cole, Neal McDonough, Sean Astin, Penn Badgley and Arielle Kebbel. The film is about a troubled rugby union player who must play against the team his father coaches at the national championships. Forever Strong is based on a compilation of individual true stories.
Rick Penning (Sean Faris) is a high school rugby player who is the captain of his team in which all of the players only improve via drugs and alcohol. After losing the championship to the Highland Rugby Team, who is also the team's rival, Rick drinks and drives, resulting in a crash that seriously injures his girlfriend, Tammy. Thus, he loses his position on the team and is sentenced to a boys' Juvenile Detention Center in Salt Lake City. Feeling bad for him, the center's manager, Marcus (Sean Astin) puts him on the Highland rugby team (much to his chagrin), coached by Larry Gelwix (Gary Cole). It takes a little while for him to get used to this new team's way. His old rugby friend sends him a rugby ball with drugs hidden in the stitching. He tries to make it while taking these drugs but one day is influenced by something one of his new teammates tells him and throws the drugs away. There is a lot of hard work for him to deal with, but he finds the strength to move forward and become a member of the Rugby team that everyone admires. Each day when he first arrives at team practices, he criticizes the coach for just sitting around and not doing any real coaching. He sees the coach always sitting with different members of the team. Then it is his turn to sit with the coach. He finds himself confessing to those drugs that were hidden in the rugby ball. The coach deals with it and tells him that the teammates want him to be a coach. He suddenly becomes influenced by brotherhood and manages to cope with his homesickness. One night after a game, the team goes out to eat for a celebration. As they are driving home, they see a mother and two children on the side of the road with a flat tire. They stop the mini bus they are riding in, and while two of the team members get out and lift the car because the mother doesn't have a jack, the others change the tire. While putting the new tire on, a car comes up from behind and clips one of the boys. Now Rick has to deal with the death of his first true friend Kurt (Michael J. Pagan). Rick is removed from the corrective custody facility and given back to live with his parents. It doesn't take long before his father is trying to get him to tell him about the moves and plays that his Highland team plays with. After he decides not to release that information, his father and he have a strong argument. Rick soon figures out that all his father wants is a national title. His father tries to make up by giving Rick the keys to his sports car. Rick drives to meet up with his old friends, including his old girlfriend Tammy, to have a good time. Soon the boys that meet get angry because Rick won't let them in on the Highland Team secrets. A fight breaks out, and the police show up. These boys place weed and alcohol paraphernalia in the sports car, and Rick is busted again. This time Tammy tells the police what really happened, and Rick is released on his own. Soon Rick finds himself again in the national championship this time against his old team and former friends coached by his own distanced father Richard Penning. The game is quite competitive and hard fought. Players from his old team try to hurt him through cheap shots to collect the bounty on his head. Rick's former best friends almost take him out, but after Coach Penning tells him if he stays down Rick'll end up like him, Rick gets back up to finish the game. As the final seconds run down with the score tied, Rick scores the winning goal for Highland. As the film ends it's shown that in real life Highland has been dominating under Coach Gelwix almost winning every year.
- Gary Cole as Coach Larry Gelwix
- Sean Astin as Marcus Tate
- Neal McDonough as Coach Richard Penning
- Sean Faris as Richard 'Rick' Seymour Penning, Jr.
- Penn Badgley as Lars
- Michael J. Pagan as Kurt Addison
- Nathan West as Quentin 'Q' Owens
- Max Kasch as Griggs
- Julie Warner as Natalie Penning
- Arielle Kebbel as Emily Owens
- Tyler Kain as Tammy
- Larry Bagby as Coach Cal
- Ryan Roundy as Himself
The movie was filmed in Salt Lake City beginning in July 2006 at three local high schools. Sean Faris ran six miles twice a day to get in shape for the film. During filming, Faris sprained his ankle, but had the ankle taped, and continued filming. Several All-American rugby players, predominantly from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, played in the film. Some Highland Rugby alumni and current players also played roles in the film.
The name of the film is based on a phrase that Gelwix often shares with his team members, "kia kaha" which in the Maori language means Stay strong. The longer version: "Be forever strong on the field, so that you will be forever strong off the field." The players call them "Gelwixism".
Forever Strong is based on an amalgam of true stories about the Highland Rugby high school team. The character Rick Penning is based on a real member of the rugby team who played in Flagstaff, Arizona and was sent to a group home in Salt Lake City. The story attracted the production company Go Films. "Forever Strong" was the first sports themed film Go Films had made. Producer Adam Abel and Director Ryan Little were attracted to the story because of Highland Rugby's tradition of winning both on and off the field. The film name "Forever Strong" is taken from the team motto of the Highland High School rugby team. "Forever Strong" was released in fall 2008 and distributed by Crane Movie Co.
- "Ready Or Not" – Manbreak
- "Pimpin Hard" – B.A.S.K.O.
- "Nothing Less" – The Travezty
- "Mele Kalikimaka" – Mugsy
- "Corporate Logic" – Stereoliza
- "Don't Make Me Dance" – Joshua Creek
- "The Deal" – Clay Duncan & Allday
- "Forever Strong" – Sink To See
Forever Strong contains use of the haka (traditional Maori dance and song) "Ka Mate". The iwi (tribal grouping) Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha is credited with composing this particular haka. The film contains a scene in which one player translates the lyrics of "Ka Mate" for his teammate.
As of October 10, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 29% of critics rated the film positively based on 14 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 37 out of 100 based on 9 reviews — indicating generally negative reviews.
- "Sean Faris in Forever Strong!". IMTA. 2006-08-07. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
- Missy Thompson (2006-08-10). "GHS turned into movie set for rugby film". Tooele Transcript-Bulletin. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
- "Forever Strong (2007) - Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
- Sullivan, Bryan (October 7, 2008). "Larry Gelwix "The Real Forever Strong Coach"". Retrieved 16 October 2011.
- "Highland High's Larry Gelwix". Rugbymag.com. Archived from the original on 2007-01-03. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
- "Forever Strong Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- "Forever Strong (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- "Forever Strong Movie Reviews, IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 2015-06-06.