DRAFT DAY, the new movie starring Kevin Costner goes where few have trod, taking audiences inside and behind the selection
process that turns highly favored college football players into professional athletes, oftentimes, overnight.
The path leading to the coveted draft day decision has taken many on a rocky road with sleepless nights, clandestine negotiations, ego-driven representation and zealous family members who think their beloved football star is the next best thing since electricity.
In theaters April 11, directed by Ivan Reitman (Animal House, Ghostbusters), DRAFT DAY gives a 360degree perspective along with a compelling love story wedged in between a general manager’s uncertain choices amid demands and pressures from everyone attached the players’ coat tails.
Arian Foster, famed running back for the Houston Texans is among DRAFT DAY’s all star lineup. In the film, Foster has the role of Ray Jennings, certain to be drafted however, he wants to be chosen by the team his father played with, the Cleveland Browns. Terry Crews (Single Moms Club, The Expendables) is cast as Earl Jennings, Ray’s father.
I sat down with Foster in Los Angeles to discuss DRAFT DAY –
Sandra Varner/Talk2SV: How does it feel when you drive to the end zone?
Arian Foster: It feels like I’m supposed to be there. It’s awesome, it’s like one of those things I equate more to life; you spend your entire time reaching a goal, trying to have a goal and when you finally get there it’s very gratifying. It’s awesome but essentially you realize–this is very cliché, but it’s the truth– you didn’t get there by yourself, you had people help you get there. That’s why to me football is such a metaphor for life because it’s very relatable.
Talk2SV: Yours is certainly not the typical background of a football player…you’re not stereotypical.
Foster: I can’t speak to a particular stereotype but I know what it was like for me. I was raised to be myself; I had awesome parents who always reinforced that they wanted me to be me, whatever that meant. They wanted me to be the best I could be, whatever that entailed and I carry that with me always. I’m not afraid to be myself. I have opinions, other people have opinions, we disagree and that’s OK. It’s just something I was raised with; sometimes it’s hard for people to love somebody that isn’t sure of themselves or isn’t themselves…but I’m just me.
Talk2SV: Speaking of being someone else how does acting feel to you?
Foster: It’s fun because you get to step outside of yourself and you get to be somebody else; it’s an art and I’ve always had a love for it. When I was in high school I took improv classes just for fun because I loved it; I fell in love with improvisation…
Talk2SV: Kevin Costner’s character is weighed down with critical decisions and has to rely on instinct and passion beyond the factors of brawn and massive amounts of money. In the world of professional football, how are you influenced by your own instincts?
Foster: I think that’s what drove me to be who I am today…my instincts. As a kid, you have a simple dream; you’d be amazed how many adults are out to bash that dream and tell you it’s unrealistic. You’ve got to focus, you’ve got to go through school and you have to almost be a rebel in order to be who you want to be. For me, I think that is what instincts are. You have to follow your own instincts. My instincts lead me to the person I want to be today, to the career path that I chose and, it’s not an easy one.
Of course, there’s a lot of people and a lot of things that happen and helped along the way. You’ve got to get lucky along the way as well, but, instinctual drive is very important.
Talk2SV: Is the safe answer once you hang up your cleats you’ll pursue acting full time or is there another Arian Foster yet to be developed?
Foster: There is another Arian Foster who has yet to be developed. I’m a young adult, 27 years old, getting old for football but not for life. I’m not sure; I’m going to focus on my current career right now because you only have so many years to be a professional athlete. I’m going to harness these years and focus on what I need to do to be the best football player I could be and after that who knows. Its [acting] fun, obviously you get to make great relationships, you get to meet so many awesome people and it’s another challenge so I would love to pursue it. For now, my main focus is being an athlete.
Talk2SV: I’ve watched football practically my whole life either with my brother growing up, now with my nephews. Their kids are now watching the games. It has been a source of great fun for our family. For you, how much fun is it still, now that you’re a “tenured” football player?
Foster: It’s still fun… the actual game. I enjoy playing but the actual game is probably 10% of what you have to go through in order to play. I think it’s just like most anything else you choose as a career. Take a look at Kevin Costner who gets to act and likes it but you don’t get to act all the time because you have to do tons and tons of media, reading scripts, yada yada and the list goes on.
It’s the same here. I have practice and meetings and a whole bunch of other stuff that needs to get done; media interviews, and it’s like you only get to play the game 16 times a year. That’s not very much. Out of 365 days a year, you only get 16 times to play the game so it makes you cherish those moments much more.
Talk2SV: When I settled into watching this movie I enjoyed not being overwhelmed with vulgarity, obscenities and the like. This is a strong, character-driven story. Did it read that way to you when you got the script? Did you have to punch it up in your mind to get excited about it?
Foster: No, actually in reading the script–I do quite a bit of reading, I enjoy reading– you kind of expect it to be corny with clichéd lines and things like that, but, this read very well. I wasn’t even cast yet and it was a page turner. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. Hopefully that will translate to the viewers because it did for me. Being a part of the movie is a huge honor.
Talk2SV: I read that you are vegan…
Foster: I was for a while but found that it wasn’t the thing for me. I tried it for about six months and was quite religious about sticking to it but it just didn’t fit me and my lifestyle. I still enjoy vegan meals.
Talk2SV: Hearing that I was under the impression that a professional football player– who exerts a high level of physical energy– could not be sustained on a vegan diet.
Foster: You actually can, it’s a common misconception; you can do it. It just takes strategic planning and things like that. It’s kind of a stereotypical view to say that vegan people can’t be strong. There are very strong vegan people but, for me, it just didn’t personally fulfill my needs so now I dabble in meats here and there.
Talk2SV: Another aspect of this film that I found enjoyable is the role played by Jennifer Garner, the team’s salary cap executive.
Foster: We have women who work in our front office in Houston and they’re very knowledgeable about sports. I think I have a skewed outlook on it because my mother is extremely knowledgeable about the sport; she’s the one that got me into football. My father played collegiate football and he tried out for the Canadian league but he didn’t want us to play football.
But my mother insisted that we pursue football. She’s also a huge [Oakland] Raider fan. Because she was, I used to be a Raider fan growing up. She actually signed us up for football (in grade school) when we were young.
She knows sports. Her father was a basketball coach so she got into basketball. She has a nice little jumper. My mom is like a little sports lady.
Mothers are very influential. They are the catalysts of a lot of success; she’s the rock in our family and she’s the one that got us into football in the first place so you can thank her for my career.
When I was growing up she made me watch Dances With Wolves. I didn’t want to watch it but she made me and it was a very good
film; now, looking back, it was an awesome film. When I was a kid, I was like, ‘there’s no action here…my favorite parts were when they were fighting.’ Kevin Costner did an amazing job. Getting the chance to sit down and talk with him, one of my mother’s favorite actors was amazing.
During filming of DRAFT DAY, he approached me because I didn’t want to assume our relationship. In the middle of one of our scenes while they were switching camera angles, I was just sitting there by myself– because I don’t know anybody on set– and he comes up to me and starts talking just like a regular guy. It was very surreal; he didn’t have to do that, he’s a superstar so it was a privilege and an honor to be a part of this whole project.
Talk2SV: And your reflections on working with Terry Crews…?
Foster: He’s a high energy man. I had to drink coffee to get with him (laughter).
Talk2SV: He has a new book, “Manhood,” did you discuss it? Is there a book inside Arian Foster?
Foster: Is there a book in me? Maybe somewhere down the road. Writing is another one of my passions; actually, it is my first passion.
Talk2SV: I guess we’ve come full circle in our conversation; you’re not the typical football player. You’re an avid reader, you write, have dabbled in veganism—not quite the profile of the football player we’ve grown accustomed to. In a few words, who is Arian Foster?
Foster: A student…a neophyte of life who is just trying to figure this thing out like everybody else.