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SEVEN DAYS IN UTOPIA

True Golf
While SEVEN DAYS IN UTOPIA is about a lot more than golf, the filmmakers were determined to give golf the cinematic treatment it has never received in Hollywood – one with the visceral kick of whip-cracking swings and sweaty-palmed putts that would let fans richly enjoy the tournament scenes as if they were right there on the fairway. With more than 20 million golf players in the U.S. alone – all after that rare joy and exaltation of chasing that perfect drive -- Matt Russell and the whole team knew there was an unsatisfied hunger for a golf movie that would finally get the details right.

The inherent drama, as well as humor, of trying to knock a little white ball into a distant hole through perilous obstacles has made golf the subject of numerous popular American films – from the comedy of CADDYSHACK to the dramatic suspense of THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE. Yet, there has often been a credibility gap, because great actors rarely have natural swings and great golfers rarely act. To shake up that past reality, for SEVEN DAYS IN UTOPIA the filmmakers decided to go straight to the source, garnering the full support of PGA of America, the Callaway PGA Golf Tour and the Golf Channel, and the participation of golfers whose killer swings have won major tournaments.

"It was really important for us to have the golf be absolutely real so that anyone could relate to it, from passionate fans to newcomers. One of the things that make this film so special is the way that golf is utilized as a metaphor for where we're all trying to go in life,” says Jason Berman.

"The most popular golf films of all time are comedies: CADDYSHACK, TIN CUP and HAPPY GILMORE,” observes Mark Mathis. "Those are fun but we wanted to take the game seriously, to have it be an authentic part of the movie as we've seen with other sports. We wanted to make every scene true-to-life to the point that we had pro golfers advising us on every stroke. The bottom line was that we wanted people who love golf to see this movie and say ‘yeah, that's the way it really is.'”

To help spur true-to-life action on every birdie or bogey, the golf seen in the film was shot at one of the most stunning and varied golf courses in the U.S.: Boot Ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas. This verdant course designed by PGA legend Hal Sutton flows with a surrounding landscape of rising ridges, sloping valleys and natural waterfalls and has a reputation for spurring inspired play.

At Boot Ranch, the cast was joined by several of the game's most stellar sports figures, including KJ Choi – the most successful Asian golfer ever, who has spent 40 weeks in the top ten of the world rankings and won the 2011 Players Championship – who came on board to play Luke's stone-faced rival. Known on and off the tour for his generosity and charitable works, Choi was knocked out by the screenplay. It seemed to line up not only with his love of golf but with his personal values.

"The storyline immediately interested me,” he says. "It was so lovely and powerful in its message, which is strong if you play or do not play.” Starring in his first feature film was a new challenge for Choi, but playing a golf champion came naturally to him. "I really enjoyed this time,” he admits, "but it is very different from playing golf and acting is very difficult!”

As Choi rose to the task, he especially enjoyed watching Lucas Black show off his not only his acting ability but his considerable golf skills. "Lucas has a great, great swing, great tempo, and could be a great player,” he muses.

As for what non-golfers might get out of the movie, Choi explains that he has always seen mastering the art of golf as similar to navigating the trials and triumphs of any human life. "Playing golf can be very up and down, and like life it is very short and has many kinds of people. Some of those people hold back, some are sad, some are happy. Same ball, different goals,” he sums up.

Choi's presence on the set fueled cast and crew even more in their desire to capture the soul of the game. "Here's a guy who is a professional golfer who wants to participate because it's so meaningful to him and he comes in and is not only awesome in the role, but a wonderful person to deal with,” says Myers. "It meant a lot to us.”

Other major golf names who participated in the filming include Stewart Cink, Rickie Fowler, Rich Beem and Cameron Beckman. Each had his own reasons for wanting to take part.

"For me, it was fun to step outside the bubble of a professional golfer's career and do something a little different,” says Cink, a popular tour veteran who won the 2009 Open Championship. "I think golf fans are really going to appreciate the effort and extra steps that have been taken to make this one of the most authentic golf films ever.”

Cink was also glad to see a film address the tough realities behind the seeming dream life of a pro golfer. "It's a great life and I wouldn't trade with anyone, but it's not all glamour,” he notes. "It can be tough and mentally draining and even if you're Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, you only win about 25% of the tournaments. So that means you're losing 75% of the time even if you're the best that has ever played! Like Luke, I've learned to lean on my faith to iron out the peaks and the valleys.”

It was easy for pro golfers to relate to the Luke's crisis. "When I read the book, I thought it captured me, because I could picture myself having that kind of meltdown and I think everyone on the tour can. Everyone can relate to having one absolute disaster of a golf hole where nothing goes right,” laughs Rich Beem, who himself went from an unknown rookie to winning the PGA Championship.

Exciting young star Rickie Fowler, who just turned pro in 2009, also related to Luke,. "Golf is a crazy game,” he muses. "There are going to be challenges at some point, so you just have to be ready for them. I really liked the book and I can't wait to see the final film.” For Matt Russell, the rare chance to shoot real pro golfers in real competitive action added a vital layer to SEVEN DAYS IN UTOPIA. "It was awesome to have the PGA participate the way they have and it gave so much to the film,” says Russell. "The actors were excited to meet the golfers, the golfers were excited to meet the actors, and I think both took pride in the idea that we were 100% committed to getting everything right, from the arc of a pro swing to the language golfers really use.”

Rounding out the realism, Golf Channel commentators Kelly Tillman, Jerry Foltz and Brandon Chamblee also takes on roles– as themselves -- in the film. Tillman was impressed by the roster of pros drawn to the production. "I think the film offers some of the greatest guys that you can find on the PGA Tour to watch, from a major champion like Stewart Cink to a rising newcomer like Rickie Fowler,” he says. "It was an honor to be part of a movie that features some of the most believable golf characters we've ever seen.”

Adds Foltz: "I have seen every golf movie made but not many of them really raise the bar. This one sets a whole new level of realism.” Foltz was most touched by the father-son aspect of Luke's journey. "When I read the script on the plane, I had tears just rolling down my face and the woman next to me was like ‘what are you reading,'” he recalls. "I could really identify with a father and a son who love the same sport. And I could identify with

Luke's struggle to keep his dream alive. I think never giving up hope is one of the most valuable lesson parents can impart to our kids.” Chamblee, too, was personally touched by Cook's book. "It goes beyond golf,” he says. "It's about that

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