USA TODAY US Edition

Movie director goes to mat for wrestling

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TomMcCarth­y’s face brings instant revulsion to many. That happens when you played the ethically challenged reporter in

The Wire to perfection. But the actor is also an awardwinni­ng writer-director with the films The Station Agent and The

Visitor on his résumé. His latest — Win Win — stars Paul Giamatti and is set in the world of high school wrestling.

Giamatti plays an attorney for the elderly. Battling financial demons, he moonlights as a wrestling coach for a losing team. But then a state champion drops into his lap.

“It is almost difficult to qualify the adrenaline rush you get from a sports story line,” said McCarthy, a former high school wrestler. “This has it. The wrestling provides not only that adrenaline hit, which is fun, but it provides a lot of comedy. . . . Sports is like music that way. It has this universal appeal even if you are not a sports fan. There is something about that competitiv­e spirit, that underdog story.”

McCarthy knows how critical wrestling fans can be, so he wanted to make sure he didn’t hit a false note. That included casting Alex Shaffer, an acting novice but former NewJersey state champion, for a major role.

“Everyone involved was a wrestler,” McCarthy said. “Guys who seem like extras in scenes were wrestlers. . . . The biggest sort of nod was from Alex when he saw the movie. I said, ‘What did you think,’ hoping he would say, ‘It touched me profoundly.’

“He said, ‘Uh, well, you got the wrestling right, dude. That’s legit.’ And honestly, I was super that.”— happyabout

Reid Cherner

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