Tim McGraw, Friends Attend Film Screening in Franklin, Tenn.

Guests on Red Carpet Include Hill, Chesney, McBride and Big & Rich

Tim McGraw has already entertained millions of country fans, but with his first major motion picture, he stands to acquire even more admirers from movie buffs.

McGraw walked the red carpet Monday (Oct. 4) for an invitation-only screening of Friday Night Lights in downtown Franklin, Tenn., at the small Franklin Cinema.

“I’m nervous tonight,” he told Bill Conger of CMT News. “There’s a lot of people here. I thought there’d be a few people show up, maybe. I hope they like it. … It’s a good movie. I was proud to be a part of it. I just hope everybody likes it as much as we liked it.”

So far, early reviews of the drama have been positive, and the media have been surprised and pleased by McGraw’s performance in the film starring Billy Bob Thornton. McGraw portrays an abusive alcoholic father who tells his son that the only thing that matters in life is winning the Texas state football championship. The movie is based on a true story, and McGraw’s character is a former high school football star whose life has wasted away since those days.

McGraw’s wife Faith Hill, who has a budding film career as well, is enthusiastic about the role and the film.

“I have seen it and it is unbelievable,” she said. “I can’t wait for everyone here to see it tonight. It’s really a phenomenal movie, and his performance … I mean, I knew that he could do it. But I was, I was …”

McGraw interrupts, laughing, “Yeah, she’s seen me act plenty of times.”

“I was blown away,” Hill said. “Honestly, it’s really great.”

Asked why it was important to him to host a Tennessee screening, McGraw said, “This is my home. This is where I live, and I’ve got a lot of friends here that wouldn’t get a chance to go to L.A. and see the movie. It’s cool that a lot of people that I grew up with can come here, people that work for me and friends of mine that I’ve just made throughout my time here in Nashville and that my mom and my sisters could come up.”

One of those friends, Kenny Chesney, told CMT News he’s been hearing about the movie for a while. “It’s something out of his element and definitely would be out of mine,” he says. “I haven’t seen the movie, but I can guarantee that Tim put a lot of heart into it like he does his music, and I’m sure he did very well. I can’t wait to see it.”

Chesney says the film is bound to stoke memories of playing high school football. “That was one of the toughest parts of my life, because none of my friends, none of us on the team we played for, was going to play college football. So our last night was our last night. It was a lot of the emotions and transitions that some of the players in this movie went through, so I relate to it a whole lot.”

Martina McBride and husband John also attended the screening. “We’re just out here to see the movie and support Tim and Faith,” she said. “We’re just so excited to see this movie. I just know he’s fabulous in it, and we can’t wait to see it.”

Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry said, “I’m excited for him and the new career step he’s taken and the fact that I’ve just got home after a four-week run and am able to take the wife out for a date night.”

Predicting McGraw’s prowess as an actor, Gentry added, “If it’s anything like he does on stage, I’m sure he’s going to do very well at it. I’m excited to get in here and see it tonight.”

Big & Rich, who have recently toured with McGraw, also walked the red carpet. “We’re all very proud of him,” said John Rich. “Man, that guy … he’s worked harder than anybody I’ve seen, and I’ve been in this business for 15 years. To keep your career at that level for that long is unbelievable. It definitely gives artists like us something to shoot for.”

Big Kenny added, “I think it’s cool to see him step outside the normal boundaries of just making music and go make a movie, too. It’s something else to do. It stirs your creative mind up a bit and shows all the rest of his talents. We think it’s awesome.”

Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts said, “I can’t wait to see the movie. I hear great things about it. I didn’t know Tim was an actor, but we’ll see tonight whether or not we can call him one or not,” he joked. “So, no I’m really really excited about it. He’s such a nice guy. It’s kind of hard to picture him in that kind of role. Great actors can play about any part, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Craig Shelburne has been writing for CMT.com since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.