What's new: 'Forever Strong'

By Aaron Shill

Mormon Times

Published: Thursday, June 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

In a recent interview with Mormon Times, Larry Gelwix said one of his conditions for agreeing to let filmmakers dramatize his rugby program was that the storyline had to focus on the players.

Over the course of 34 seasons, there have been plenty — both players and stories. There has also been a tremendous accumulation of victories and accolades, including 19 national championships, the most recent of which came this spring.

Gelwix has often said, however, that his No. 1 priority is to build championship boys. "Forever Strong," which was released on DVD on May 26, melds together stories from the history of Highland Rugby, with a primary emphasis on the players' struggles and successes off the field.

The film's main character, Rick Penning (Sean Faris), is a gifted but undisciplined rugby player from Arizona who ends up in a detention facility in Salt Lake City. He reluctantly agrees to play for Gelwix (Gary Cole), whose Highland Rugby squad is the archrival of his own high school team and its coach, who also is Rick's father.

Gelwix is portrayed as a personable, caring coach who also demands strict adherence to team rules, which emphasize honesty, personal cleanliness and avoiding harmful substances. The title is derived from one of Gelwix's often-repeated mantras: "I want you to be forever strong on the field, so that you will be forever strong off the field."

The film, which was featured at the 2008 LDS Film Festival, was directed by Ryan Little and produced by Adam Abel. The duo also produced "Saints and Soldiers," a World War II movie that featured a Mormon character. There are no overt LDS references in "Forever Strong," though the team's values and spiritually based culture are apparent.

"Forever Strong" was honored with the 2008 Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award and, more recently, was named Utah's Best of State for feature films.

"Forever Strong" is PG-13, although it is fairly mild for that rating. Viewers can expect to see some violence, a fairly typical Hollywood party scene, drug and alcohol use, and a brief instance of obscene gestures.

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