It’s a David and Goliath battle–in the golf world.
John O’Hurley stars as a villainous American developer who tries to covert a Greek golf course into a shopping center with a water park. He lays it all on the line by playing 18 holes against a ten-year-old girl, who is trained by a suspended professional golfer.
The film also stars Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie) as the suspended professional golfer. It is directed by Michael A. Nickles (Holly Star).
LRM exclusively spoke with John O’Hurley over the phone this week about this heartwarming film about rediscovery and golf. We also talked about Greek culture and the wonderful people in that country with the production.
John O’Hurley is best known for the role of J. Peterman on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld and the host of the Family Feud game show from 2006 to 2010. He was a contestant on the first season of Dancing with the Stars back in 2005 and voiced Roger Doofenshmirtz in Phineas and Ferb.
Swing Away is out today playing at limited theaters and on VOD.
Read our interview transcript below:
LRM: It must be a relief for you that Swing Away is going to be released.
John O’Hurley: It’s been seven years in the making. [Laughs]
LRM: Tell me why you were attracted to this film and how you were approached to this project.
John O’Hurley: I was doing the keynote speech at the Waldorf Astoria for the PGA. [chuckles] It was back seven years ago. There was this guy named George Stephanopoulos, who happens to be the cousin to George Stephanopoulos. They’re all named George Stephanopoulos over there. [Laughs]
LRM: [Laughs] Oh, really?
John O’Hurley: Yes. They’re named George Stephanopoulos in Greece. When they find a name they like, everybody gets it. [Laughs] Well, he approached me with the script and that’s the beginning of it. There were many, many, many evolutions, rewrites and re-concepts. Lo and behold! Three years ago, they came up with a shooting budget, time, a place and something definitive. I went over there and shot it. Basically, I created the character that I played in the movie.
LRM: You created the character for the movie?
John O’Hurley: Originally, it was a German developer. I said it didn’t make any sense to play a German character. Might as well find a good German to do it. I told them that it’ll more sense if he was more of an American developer, a la Donald Trump. As in the world development properties that he put together. It’s that A-type personality he represents like a bull in a china shop. It should be that kind of a character.
I’ve constructed that character in mind. Basically, we did a lot of improvisation. Let the cameras run and I’ll just start talking.
LRM: So a lot of the lines in the film…
John O’Hurley: We’re all improv, yes.
LRM: Wow. That’s pretty impressive.
John O’Hurley: It was a lot of fun. I do speak this character. It was an easy thing for me to [portray].
LRM: How was it channeling your own version of Donald Trump? Have you met him before?
John O’Hurley: I’ve known him for twenty-five years. It was sure easy. [Laughs]
LRM: So it did came across pretty easily for yourself. What do you think he’ll think about your performance in the film?
John O’Hurley: Oh, he’ll love it. He’ll love it. The character is absolutely irredeemable. It’s in a bombastic type of way. He’s always done his own guitar in the end.
LRM: You should definitely send him a copy of the film.
John O’Hurley: I’m sure he’ll see it. [Laughs]
LRM: As for the golfing aspect, you’re familiar with the sport, right?
John O’Hurley: Yes. I’ve played competitively back in my scholastic years. I do show up the celebrity golf circuits as well.
LRM: You didn’t have to do any training or preparation for this film then.
John O’Hurley: Nah. None at all.
LRM: All the physical activities and stunts were all you then, right?
John O’Hurley: Yep. All me.
LRM: What were the challenges for you then? It seems that you did improv and played golf–it was like a big vacation.
John O’Hurley: There weren’t any challenges. It was all nothing but fun from the beginning to the end. It’s one of the most enjoyable cast I’ve worked with. There was a real sense of community. Aside from Shannon [Elizabeth], myself and a British actor, it was essentially a Greek cast and a Greek production crew.
I had a wonderful chance to be imbued by the whole Greek culture. I was so impressed with the whole Greek experience. I jokingly say that they’ll wake up six o’clock in the morning that they’re proud to be Greek. They’re proud to be Greek all day long until they go to bed at 4 a.m. and they’ll still be proud to be Greek.
It is this wonderful sense of support. They support each other. They’re very good with each other. No one raised their voice on the entire set. I’ve never been on a set that was so fraternal. That’s they way they are. They’re very supportive of each other.
We’ve done screenings of this film all across the country for competitions and festivals. The Greek community came out in droves to support it. It’s just fascinating to see. I can’t pinpoint another culture that would be so appreciating to its own.
LRM: How long were you there in Greece for this production?
John O’Hurley: I had a very tight window of time. They had to compress all of filming into two weeks.
LRM: Oh, wow.
John O’Hurley: Yep. It was every day.
LRM: Tell me about that golf course. Was that also in Greece?
John O’Hurley: It’s in the Isle of Rhodes, yes. It’s not very good. [Laughs] That’s the purpose of it. It’s supposed to be not very good, because the Greeks don’t play golf. There are very few golf courses in Greece. Golf is an anomaly for them. That’s the whole purpose of the movie is the fact about re-discovery. It’s about the main character’s re-discovery about herself to the sense of authenticity. It’s about the Greek townspeople not realizing on what they got until it’s gone. There is this developer about to tear away a piece of our property and turn it into something else. I was about to turn it into a waterpark, which is the last thing they’ll need overlooking the Aegean Sea. Not to mention big shopping malls to go along with that.
The golf course was absolutely–the best I can say is–pedestrian.
LRM: [Laughs] I was acting alongside with Shannon Elizabeth.
John O’Hurley: Wonderful! We had some great scenes together. She’s a solidly rooted actress. I’m very careful about looking into another actor’s eyes to see if there’s really anything in there. She’s the real deal. She’s thoughtful and a smart actress. I enjoyed working with her quite a bit. The scenes we had together was quite good.
LRM: Did you manage to play a round of golf with her over there?
John O’Hurley: Well, not a round of golf. She is a golfer, but that wasn’t really a part of her game. She was there to play the character, not to be swinging a club. It was more about the little girl, the ten-year-old.
Did you have a chance to see the film?
LRM: I did see the movie. I was going to ask you about the girl, Viktoria Miller.
John O’Hurley: It was a lot of fun. We had a wonderful stunt double for her. It worked out perfectly. Because that’s a real problem. This film lives or dies on the believability of that ten-year-old being able to play golf.
It turns out to be that the golf advisor was a gentleman from Britain who lived in Greece. He has a ten-year-old son. That kid has a Tiger Woods swing. Sure enough, he was the same size as she was. All they did was to cross dress him and he was perfect for the golf shots. It was a wonderful, wonderful happy instance that we were able to find him. As I said, the movie lives and dies on the ability of that child to play golf. And we also found a great actress who we could dub as a great golfer. Everything fits perfectly.
It is one of the happy accidents that happened that make the film as good as it is.
LRM: Is golfing the go-to sport for yourself? Or do you like other sports?
John O’Hurley: Yes, it is. It is my go-to. I’ve played that sport all of my life. There’s a little bit of tennis in a while. But, I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan baseball-wise. In terms of actually playing a sport, it’s between golf and fly-fishing.
LRM: That’s too bad. I’m actually cheering for the Red Sox too. [Laughs]
John O’Hurley: I know. I’m still beyond consolation.
LRM: [Laughs] Terrific. Let me start wrapping things up with you. Could you talk about the other upcoming projects you may have besides Swing Away?
John O’Hurley: Let’s see. I have a one-man show called A Man With Standards. It’s a memoire show with music and stories that I tour around. I did it in New York last week and I keep touring that around the country. I also have the musical Chicago on tour all the time from Broadway. I also have a special production of Sleeping Beauty that’s going to be done in Houston at the Theater Under the Stars in the month of December. I’ll be doing this as a special thing for the kids down there.
LRM: Sounds great! One last quick question for you–where is the best golf course that you had ever played at?
John O’Hurley: I would say–without question–internationally, it would be the Kingsbarns in Scotland at St. Andrews. The other would be Pebble Beach domestically.
LRM: Great choice. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you.
John O’Hurley: Myself as well.
Swing Away is out today playing at limited theaters and on VOD.
Source: Exclusive to LRM