USA TODAY US Edition
Movie director goes to mat for wrestling
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