Tim McGraw Tackles First Starring Role

Flicka Follows Critically-Acclaimed Role in Friday Night Lights

Editors note: The CMT Insider interview with Tim McGraw premieres Saturday (April 30) at 1:30 p.m. ET/PT.

LAKE VIEW TERRACE, Calif. — Tim McGraw wandered around between shooting scenes for his latest film, Flicka, giving extras an impromptu performance of “Amarillo by Morning.” Clean shaven and decked out from head to toe in traditional Western wear — instead of his usual goatee and hip, designer jeans — he admitted he could probably pass for George Strait.

“I haven’t had Wranglers on in a long time, yeah,” McGraw said, laughing. “It’s like I’m still trying to get a record deal.”

When CMT Insider visited the set on April 20, McGraw had been working on the film in the hills outside Los Angeles for about a month. The movie is an updated take on the classic 1941 children’s book and subsequent TV show and film, My Friend Flicka, which centers on a young girl growing up on a Wyoming ranch. In the new version, McGraw plays the father of a headstrong teenage daughter who insists on racing a wild mustang.

One of the wild horses used in a racing scene died during filming Monday (April 25), five days after CMT’s visit to the set. The American Humane Association later announced that another horse had to be put down on April 11 after breaking its leg while filming a rodeo scene. Contacted Friday (April 29), McGraw’s publicist could not confirm whether the singer was on the set at the time of the accidents. McGraw has not yet commented on the deaths.

Flicka won’t hit theaters until early 2006, but McGraw will continue working on the film through the end of May. He’ll then turn his attention to a new tour in July and a new album he expects to release in October or November.

During the CMT Insider interview, McGraw said he’s enthusiastic about being a part of such a time-tested story.

“You know the thing about this movie is that it’s such a family movie and it’s such an old story,” McGraw said. “To be able to make a movie that your kids can grow up seeing for the next 20 years, it’s pretty cool. Friday Night Lights … the kids couldn’t see, but this one they can see, and I’m excited about that.”

Speaking of “the kids,” McGraw’s three daughters with wife Faith Hill — Gracie, Maggie and Audrey — were on the set watching their dad film his scenes. He said it was strange for them to see him with his on-screen wife, ER and Coyote Ugly star Maria Bello.

“I think they are a little weirded out about Dad holding hands with another woman, so I think that’s the thing they are trying to get over now,” McGraw said. “I am, too, actually.”

Bello, herself the mother of a 5-year-old son, said parenthood has provided a common bond with her co-star. She said she first discovered McGraw through his supporting role in Friday Night Lights, but she didn’t know that he was a country music superstar.

“I thought he was so fantastic in it, such an interesting actor,” Bello told CMT Insider.

McGraw earned rave reviews for morphing into an abusive, alcoholic father in the 2004 movie. Before that, his film credits included a role as a sheriff in the Rick Schroder-directed indie film Black Cloud. Flicka is his first leading role, a fact that makes the usually self-assured McGraw a little nervous.

“It’s scary because in Friday Night Lights you only saw a little bit of me, so it’s like, ’Are you gonna see too much of me in this?'” he joked.

Some other familiar faces McGraw fans will see in Flicka include members of his band, the Dancehall Doctors, and the Warren Brothers. Brett Warren and Brad Warren co-wrote a song with McGraw that will be used in a dancehall scene. And, yes, McGraw will be dancing.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” McGraw quipped. “Yeah, as white as I am, I’m gonna dance.”