HOLLYWOOD — Although his dramatic turn in Friday Night Lights has been largely kept under wraps, Tim McGraw was finally on the big screen Thursday night (Sept. 16) at Hollywood’s Mann’s Chinese Theater during an early screening for the national media.
And it’s a Tim McGraw we’ve never seen before.
McGraw turns in a powerful and convincing performance as Charlie Billingsley, an alcoholic former football star who is abusive to his football player son, Don. Onscreen, the transformation is remarkable. McGraw completely sheds his pretty-boy stage image — going hatless, adding a few pounds to his usually slim frame and using makeup to age his complexion. He is unflinching during two particularly violent scenes where the elder Billingsley roughs up his son, both physically and mentally.
During a visit to the Houston movie set back in April, McGraw told CMT News he had no reservations about taking on such a challenging part.
“I didn’t see it as difficult to play,” McGraw explained. “In fact, I thought it would be easier to play than any other character I could find. We all have that side to us, and I think it’s fun to explore that side to yourself, and especially knowing people growing up that I had seen react in those ways at high school football games and baseball games. I thought that I could really put a face on it.”
Friday Night Lights is based on the H.G. Bissinger book of the same name that follows the true story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers in football-crazy Odessa, Texas.
The movie also stars Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines and newcomer Garrett Hedlund as McGraw’s onscreen son, Don Billingsley. Although he plays a supporting role, McGraw’s character is pivotal to the story. We are introduced to Charlie Billingsley early on, and he is featured throughout the movie, illustrating the intense pressure the high school football players felt to bring home the state championship. McGraw gets much more screen time in Friday Night Lights than his wife, Faith Hill, did in her big-screen debut, The Stepford Wives.
Although fans certainly won’t recognize McGraw as the country star they’ve come to know, the singer-actor hopes they’ll embrace him as he tries something new in the film.
“I don’t think they would know it was me if they didn’t see the trailers of the movie. I just hope they like it. If the performance isn’t any good, they won’t like it at all, I’m sure,” he joked.
Friday Night Lights opens nationwide on Oct. 8. Premieres are scheduled in Franklin, Tenn., on Oct. 4 and Los Angeles on Oct. 6.