Even without the mantra of clear eyes and full hearts, the ‘Stronger’ director’s take on a sports classic could still be a winner.
Comparing filmmakers David Gordon Green and Peter Berg may seem counterproductive at first. Generally, they make very different kinds of movies; Green doesn’t even have a set style or genre that he gravitates towards, while Berg increasingly tends to stick to big dramatic set pieces.
However, Green and Berg’s careers have synched up before. They each did a movie based on the Boston marathon bombings (Stronger and Patriots Day, respectively. Now, with the announcement of Green’s latest project, they will each have had a hand in immortalizing a certain West Texas high school football team on the big screen.
Green will direct a new version of Friday Night Lights for Universal Pictures with a script by Robert Schenkkan (Hacksaw Ridge). According to Variety, this movie will neither be a sequel to Berg’s 2004 film adaptation nor the television show which ran from 2006 to 2011, both of which were based on H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 nonfiction book “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, A Dream” (there was also the short-lived 1993 TV show Against the Grain, which was inspired by the book — also unrelated to this next version). Instead, the new film will just retain the setting of a Texas high school and still focus on the impact of football culture on a small town’s communal identity.
In truth, I damn near baulked upon hearing about this new version of Friday Night Lights. The 2004 film touched the hearts of many, and later adapting the material into a serial format allowed the story to really flourish. NBC’s Friday Night Lights happens to be one of my favorite shows ever. Sure, it is ultimately aimed for the soft-hearted, but that isn’t a bad thing by far. It’s real and raw and those characters are far too special. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton play the world’s greatest onscreen couple, and the kids at Dillon High School — and East Dillon too! — buck stereotypes and are far more relatable than one would initially assume (although they were played by people in their mid-twenties). Even as I write this, imagining the inexplicably uplifting theme song from the TV series gives me chills.
Nevertheless, it isn’t lost on me that Green — being an extraordinarily chameleonic director who has made gritty dramas and stoner comedies alike — could bring something new to the table after two adaptations overseen by Berg (he also produced the Friday Night Lights TV series). If Universal is dead-set on recapturing the inspirational qualities of one of the best sports dramas to come out of the last decade or so, then Green is the right man for the job.
In his adaptation of Jeff Bauman’s memoir into the widely acclaimed Jake Gyllenhaal-led drama Stronger, Green sealed the deal for his ability to create a film that is deeply affective yet respectful of the process of telling a survivor’s life story. The film takes a basic “inspirational” premise and adds to it by placing its big-name actors in real-life settings. While promoting Stronger, Green took care to mention that his approach to Bauman’s narrative was more tempered and considered than anything he’d done in the past. This was mainly for the benefit of the real-life figures involved in the film’s production, who had to trust that Green wouldn’t Hollywood-ize any trauma and the circumstances that followed.
In an interview with Screen Crush, Green said:
“With this movie, I was a lot more reserved in terms of my day-to-day rambunctiousness. And cautious about how I’m representing specific individuals in a community that I was unfamiliar with and an extraordinary event that I have no authority within. And so I just did a lot of research, I met a lot of people. […] So you commit to that connection, that communication, that respect, and your movie evolves in those parameters, for me.”
If anything, Green’s experience on Stronger proves that he doesn’t just make stereotypical films, even when dealing with genres that could be rife in cliches. Variety notes that the new adaptation of Friday Night Lights will introduce entirely new characters to embody the source material’s themes of resilience and hard work, so it wouldn’t likely be a straightforward biopic. All the same, Green (whose next effort is the Halloween reboot-quel) would definitely have a mature, grounded take on the subject matter that Berg laid the foundation for years ago. Green is, after all, well-known for his character-driven indies, such as George Washington and Joe.
In truth, even as a tear-jerker of a network drama, the Friday Night Lights series never felt extraordinarily distant from real life. Green’s interest in maintaining the integrity of his films makes him a strong candidate to reintroduce the story to fans and new audiences alike.
Related Topics: David Gordon Green