Movie Reviews

Interview featuring James Petulla, Jack Spates, and Kurt Angle with Scott Casber, Scott McLin, and Kyle Klingman


featuring James Petulla, Jack Spates, and Kurt Angle
with Scott Casber, Scott McLin, and Kyle Klingman
December 8, 2001

McLin: We have a brand new wrestling movie coming your way.

Casber: Not enough of them.

McLin: But we have a new one coming your way and it’s called Reversal. We have the producer of that movie with us.

Klingman: That’s right. James Petulla. He’s also the writer. He is the president of Film and TV Connection as well. He wrote it and is in the movie as well. It’s pretty cool that he’s on here.

McLin: We also have Jack Spates and we hope to have a special guest joining us shortly in this interview segment.

Casber: Jack how are you?

Spates: I’m doing great.

Casber: Everything good down there in OK.

Spates: Couldn’t get any better. Although call me tomorrow and I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Casber: Any predictions on the match.

Spates: I’m going with the Sooners.

Casber: James Petulla let’s talk motion pictures. How big of a deal is it to get a motion picture like this made these days?

Petulla: It’s exciting for me and it’s certainly a journey. I’m quite surprised. After we finished the film I did an opening in Pennsylvania and called a theater near where we shot the film in Washington, Pennsylvania. We had a wonderful opening. Did a couple of box office records. It was real neat. We came back to Los Angeles and said to distributors: “Hey look, we did some box office records, we got some good reviews, people liked the film.” Because there are no stars in the movie and there’s no car crashes, blood, T and A, they’re going “does anybody really care about a kid in the sport of wrestling?”

So I myself started contacting some theater chains and finding it’s very difficult to get a film in the theaters with no names. They said: “Look, send us your screener, we like your movie and we’ve got four theaters chains that are going to take the movie out in February.”

Klingman: James what was your vision for the film? How did you get started and what spurred you on to do a film of this nature? This is your story, right?

Petulla: It’s my story. I’m from a small town in Pennsylvania where my father was my wrestling coach from the time that I was four years old to the time that I graduated high school. This was twenty years ago. I’m forty-one now and I’ve been out of that end and have been in Los Angeles now for twenty years. I have a business where I place people in film and TV and in the music recording and radio business, Career Connection. I decided to write this script and after I wrote this script I had a couple of film companies in L.A. through friends and a network there. I got a real good reaction off the script and they said let’s go and we want to make the movie. They wanted to get some TV actors, and of course they weren’t talking a huge budget or anything. They said: “Let’s get some TV actors and we can fake the wrestling and why don’t we shoot it in Big Bear.” I said: “Let’s shoot it in Pennsylvania and why don’t we get some real wrestlers.”

Casber: That’s a novel idea. Get someone who knows what they’re talking about.

McLin: I wanted to jump in here real quick. I’ll let you finish your thought but we’ve got probably one of the biggest endorsements of any movie by a special person on the line right now. Ladies and gentlemen we have Kurt Angle from the World Wrestling Federation on the line with us right now. Hey Kurt how’s it going?

Angle: Good. How are you guys doing?

McLin: Good. We have James Petulla the producer of Reversal the movie and we also have Jack Spates on the line. Kurt I know you’ve seen this movie. What do you think of Reversal the movie?

Angle: I thought it was tremendous. Not just for wrestling fans but for anybody that’s interested in a father/son relationship. A son being pushed by the father a little bit too much. I think in a way it’s good for wrestling.

A lot of people will say it shows a lot of bad habits from what wrestling was all about as far as weight cutting and stuff like that. In general, I thought it sent a really good message to, not just kids, but to fathers about how they should keep sports in perspective. You always want to be the best at them. You also have to know you don’t want to ruin your relationship with your dad and mom.

Watching that movie really brought back some memories from when I was in high school and seeing a lot of my friends going through the same ordeal as James did. I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was an “A plus” movie to be honest with you.

Casber: “A plus?” Let’s get that in print on our Web site that Kurt Angle said it was “A plus.”

Angle: I looked over at my wife, and my wife is very critical, I looked over at her about five times during the movie. She had tears in her eyes. There were times when she was laughing. It was one of those films that touched her heart many times. She didn’t come from a highly athletic family like I did. I brought my niece who grew up the same way that James did. She had a brother that was pushed the same way that James was pushed when he was in high school. She was kind of the one that was forgotten about because the attention went on the boy about wrestling, about what to do with his life, to be the best, and you have to be disciplined and everything. She was kind of forgotten about and it brought back a lot of emotion for her growing up in that same ordeal. She told me she really enjoyed to movie but it was a little bit too close to home for her.

McLin: So this movie is going to appeal to more than just wrestling fans?

Angle: Way more. I think it’s going to appeal to everybody. It’s just a matter of getting it out there and hopefully James and the people that are working on it can expand this movie nationally and internationally if we can. It’s just a matter of working hard and distributing it as much as they can distribute it. I know a lot of people that want to see it. The people that have seen it want other people to see it. We’re just hoping that eventually down the road it can be distributed nationally. I think it should be. I know there are a lot of major people out in L.A., producers and companies, want to sign this movie. I think James wants control of it because it’s his movie and it’s his little baby. He wants to make sure it’s done the right way. He wants full control of it and I don’t blame him.

Casber: There’s a lot of pressure at the theatrical level for a move to bring in big bucks right away. You’ve got a couple movies out that are doing big numbers right now that are holding a lot screens. I think that is a difficulty for a motion picture like this. Can it edge its way in? Can it edge its way in even with guys like you giving it credit that it deserves?

Angle: There are many reasons that it might and it might not. Does it have the star power? No. Does it have the backing of companies like Paramount and Universal? No, not right now. So it’s really difficult for a movie like that to become a blockbuster when it doesn’t have the backing. Is it the right story? Yes. Is it told the right way? Yes. Did the actors do a great job for their lack of experience? Oh, yeah. It’s unbelievable. People want to see superstars. Hopefully they’ll look beyond that and watch the movie for the story it is and how good it is. If it’s not a blockbuster I hope it comes pretty close.

Casber: Two movies that were not blockbusters at the theater. The two sports movies that come to mind are Hoosiers and Pistol Pete Maravich Story.

Angle: I love both of them.

Casber: They are both incredibly moving stories.

McLin: Rudy is another name.

Casber: Rudy is another name that didn’t do blockbuster numbers at the theater. They have so many fans and their shelf life is so long. I have to believe that a movie like this, if we have difficulty at the theatrical level, it will go to home video and cable distribution as well as television.

McLin: I like to root for the underdog.

Casber: Any independent film is an underdog at this point. Hollywood is driven by the almighty dollar. There is no other thing they take into consideration. That’s what’s sad about Hollywood. They only look at that dollar sign. In some ways I can’t blame them but in other ways we get short changed.

McLin: I know you have to run Kurt but we want to thank you for coming on with us.

Angle: Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed the success I’ve been having in the World Wrestling Federation. To all the amateur wrestlers out there I’m out there busting my butt and letting people know where I’m from and that’s amateur wrestling. I take a lot of pride in that fact and that’s why you see Kurt Angle out there doing his thing, doing his amateur moves and letting people know where he’s from because it’s very important to me.

Casber: We want to let you know how much we appreciate what you do for amateur sports. A lot of people don’t understand that after you get done entertaining at a WWF event, you’re going to get out there and bust your butt. You might give a clinic to a group of kids and really give back to the sport that has given you so much.

Angle: No doubt about it. No doubt about it. Kurt Angle isn’t done with amateur wrestling by any means. When I retire from the WWF the first thing I’ll do is go back to amateur wrestling. I’m not sure what level. Whether it’s with kids, high school, college, Olympic wrestling I will be there and I’ll be backing everybody as much as I can. I will be giving back to the sport as the sport has given to me. It’s the most important thing in my life. Winning the Olympic gold medal in amateur wrestling has brought me to where I am today.

Casber: I think Jack Spates was going to ask you something.

Spates: I was going to say first of all, Kurt you can come to Oklahoma.

Angle: (Laughing) I’m not taking a job at Oklahoma.

Spates: You can come to Oklahoma. Hey Kurt, what’s the deal here. I’m flipping through the channels the other night and I come across you and you’re getting pinned. What’s going on there?

Angle: That happens a lot.

Spates: I’ve got the Jack Spates Oklahoma Gold wrestling camp we can get you to buddy.

Angle: I’ll be there someday Jack, you know it.

Casber: Kurt thanks for taking the time with us and promoting Reversal the movie.

Angle: It’s a must see. I’m backing it 100%.

Casber: James what does that mean to you to get an endorsement from a big star like Kurt Angle? Not only in the pro ranks but a storied career in the amateur ranks?

Petulla: It’s really exciting. That’s why when I saw Kurt, mainly his wife’s reaction, it was special. Keep in mind that I had never met Kurt or his wife until they showed up to the theater. I met them ten minutes before the film screened. Jack was the one who got a hold of Kurt and everything. To see them after the film and the way they were moved. He’s right. I think the bigger audience for the film won’t be wrestlers and know nothing about wrestling. The kids do such a phenomenal job.

Jack’s son Justin Spates plays one of the leads in the film. Wrestling we all know he’s got but what a wonderful acting job this kid does. He could have a major career. I’ve got agents interested in him and Danny the two leads in the film. These kids just tell the truth, they look good, they’re honest, and I think that’s why the wrestling community will like the film is because we let them go. We have two cameras going and it’s shot well and these kids just go at it. It really means a lot getting the endorsement from Kurt and that’s why it’s important for me to try the theatrical step.

The good news for me is that I’m not desperate. My business has done well. I’m not broke. A lot of these theater chains, with one being in Iowa, will work with me. What’s going to have to happen is that I’m not going to be able to release this during Harry Potter but during February during the slow times in theaters.

Klingman: Now Jack if anyone knows what you look like they will not miss who Justin is because he looks just like you.

Spates: That doesn’t bode well for his future now does it?

Klingman: Honestly, what did you think of the movie? I know there are some weight cutting issues and I know that James is working on some disclaimers with USA Wrestling. Give us your honest assessment of the movie.

Spates: You have to understand first of all coming into this thing I had no good expectations. The last movie I saw was One More Shot and I thought that should have been the last shot.

I’m approached with this opportunity by Justin and I think it’s a great opportunity. But do I think it’s going to be a good movie? Frankly, no.

As the movie is being made I get to know James who is a dynamic and special individual. He’s so enthusiastic and Justin is real excited and they keep giving me good reports. But am I optimistic? No.

About a week before I went out to Los Angeles for the screening I got on the Web site. I encourage everybody to get on this Web site. I had a bunch of my wrestlers there and they’re looking on there and they were surprised that this thing is for real.

When I got out to the screening, from the very first minute of the movie you know it’s a real movie. You don’t know if it’s a good movie yet but you know it’s a real movie. The cinematography and the soundtrack are just outstanding. Then when you see the responses of people around you realize it’s a very good movie.

Klingman: It’s obvious that James put a lot of time and effort into this concept. This is his life story. James I wanted to know how close does this match the story you had in high school?

Petulla: It’s very close. It’s exactly what happened.

Klingman: All the characters fit in line?

Petulla: That’s how the story went. Absolutely. I’d never written a script before and I sat down and wrote the truth first and then from that started to elaborate. The things that happened really happened. I didn’t sit and try to think of what was said as far as dialogue is concerned.

It was a real treat for me because a I actually play my father in the film. There were a lot of issues with me and my father. There were a lot of things my father wanted to say to me that he never did say. But the events that happened to me really did happen.

Klingman: This a question to both James and Jack. Obviously the weight cutting was an issue in the movie. If you’re educated about the sport you know that stuff happened. I know you’re both working on some things. Jack specifically, how did you view the weight cutting in the movie?

Spates: This is reality. This is a true story. For years we abused ourselves and we were archaic in our methods of weight cutting. Wrestlers are such tough people and our mentality is if we did it then they can do it. Frankly it wasn’t a good thing and the changes that have come about have been the very best thing that could take place for the sport. In that sense the movie is very instructive. It shows how far the sport has come. You don’t see the practices that went on back then. I think it will come out a little more at the beginning of the film when there is a disclaimer acknowledging the fact that these practices are no longer in effect.

Klingman: James I think you were kind of making the point that this isn’t a good thing to drive your kids this hard.

Petulla: Jack will tell you that it’s not heavy handed. So far the wrestlers who have seen it have not had a problem with it. What I do want to do when I do do the DVD is I’m going to turn it into a very positive education. I’m going to have several Olympic gold medalists, people like Kurt and also great coaches like Jack, and they’re going to talk not only about the film but the sport of wrestling. I’m even going to get into the history of wrestling and how the sport has changed. I want to make it a positive thing to promote the sport of wrestling. Honestly, I didn’t do the film because of the wrestling world. If I would have sat down with Jack or USA Wrestling ahead of time we would have a different movie.

Spates: You know what it is James? It’s predominately a father/son story. It revolves all around wrestling but it’s a very touching father and son story.

Petulla: Jack hit it on the head. It’s a father/son love story. It just so happens that the backdrop happens to be wrestling.

Klingman: Even your character in the movie, James, is a likable character.

Spates: The father was not a stage parent. We’ve all seen stage parents who push there sons. This was a father who loved his son desperately and wanted everything for his son. He wanted his son to have so much more than he had but he wanted it for his son. That becomes evident in the conclusion of the movie.

Petulla: I tried every step of the way throughout the film to make what the father did out of love for his son. I guess from what Jack says I may have pulled that off.

Klingman: What do we have to do, what does the amateur wrestling community have to do to get on board with this film?

Petulla: Right now what we need is the support which we’ve been getting. It’s a double-edged sort of thing. I can’t be selling videos and DVDs because then we can never be in theaters. We want to do the theatrical thing. There are some angles to do it by working with the theater chains. It’s just a different mindset. I don’t need to open in 2000 screens. There have been plenty of people that have self distributed films, literally going from state to state, and taking eight to ten months to do it. All of a sudden this movie has become a remote breakout. That’s my game plan. I don’t know what it will all add up to but I’d like to at least try that first and at this point get people to the Web site and have them check out the site. We’ll have where we’re going to be showing it in theaters in February. Wisconsin and Iowa are going to be some of the first places we’re going to show the movie.

Spates: I think this film is going to come out everywhere but it might come out a little slower. Can you imagine people reading and seeing Kurt Angle in a trailer saying anyone who has sacrificed for a sport should see this movie. Any father who loves his son should see this movie. Word of mouth is going to carry it because it’s good.

Klingman: Let me say James that the wrestling in this movie is outstanding.

Petulla: I did a screening in Hollywood and I had distributors coming up to me who were floored by it. Ivan from Disney told me: “You have an ‘A’ movie here,I never knew the sport.” Everyone thought Disney would pick it up but it doesn’t work that way. If Tom Cruise isn’t in your movie even though Justin and Danny did a spectacular job. These two kids tell the simple truth and they related what they already know. We have two great kids who have lived that life.

McLin: It sounds like you have a group of people who are positively behind this movie and that’s what’s making this film work.

Spates: That’s the last word. Who can top that. All kidding aside it’s good that it’s coming out in Iowa first. It’s a special State both in high school and the collegiate level. They love their wrestling passionately and I think they’re really going to embrace the film.

McLin: We’re up against the break but give us the website one more time. Give it to us James.

Petulla: It’s, all run together like it’s one word. You can fill out a form there where we will keep people updated and send them e-mails letting them know where the film is playing, what screens, what theaters, and when we do do the DVD and video. I really appreciate this guys. I really appreciate you plugging the movie and putting us on. It means a lot.

Klingman: Jack thanks so much. I know you have the Bedlam dual tomorrow and that’s huge. I really appreciate you staying up late. That means a lot to us.

Spates: You’re welcome.

McLin: Real quick Jack, Mat Snacks the sequel is coming, right?

Spates: I’m about eighty percent through Mat Snacks 2 and I have some neat stories. As a matter of fact Nick Ackerman is in one. Some insights that the wrestling world hasn’t heard yet. I’m real excited about it.

Let me say one other thing. Kurt’s off the line but guys how special is he. He along with The Rock are kings of the world in their sport yet he is the same guy today as he was yesterday. He’s just a giving, caring, sensitive guy.

Petulla: Jack Spates is my hero. I love you Jack.

Spates: I love you too James.

McLin: Thank you for coming on and we wish you all the best.

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