In Champions, Marcus is a recently fired minor league basketball assistant coach who, following his humiliating firing, gets into a car accident while under the influence. Marcus is sentenced to community service, coaching a team ofadults basketball players with intellectual disabilities at the local community center. While coaching The Friends, Marcus becomes a better coach, willing to listen and connect with his players.
The Friends, on an unexpected winning streak with Marcus, could go further than ever before straight to the Special Olympics championships. Champions is directed by Bobby Farrelly and written by Mark Rizzo. Champions stars Woody Harrelson, Katlin Olson, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin, and Matt Cook.
Screen Rant spoke with Cheech Marin about Champions. He discusses his character, Julio, and collaborating with Harrelson. Marin also reveals what drew him to Champions and why comedy can be the perfect way to tell these stories.
Cheech Marin On Champions
Screen Rant: Cheech, what an amazing film, man. This film is hilarious, inspirational, and full of heart. Can you talk to me a little bit about your character, Julio?
Cheech Marin: Julio runs the gym, the community center in which all the action occurs and all the basketball games are played. The part you don’t see in the movie, or it is not explained in the movie, but the judge that sentences Woody to this gym, is my niece. So it’s all a family affair. That’s old backstory. You don’t need to know that.
Now, I love your dynamic working with Woody. Can you talk to me about working with him and building the chemistry with Woody for Champions?
Cheech Marin: We worked together before. We did a play together in San Francisco. A big Sam Shepherd play called The Late Henry Moss. So we were very, very tight from that, and so we knew each other’s rhythm. So when we got on the set for Champions, we knew what key to play in.
That’s amazing. Now, what drew you to this project?
Cheech Marin: Well, who wouldn’t want to be in Winnipeg in winter? The script was great and I liked it. I knew Woody, so that was going to be fun. But the script was great. But it gained in stature every day as I realized what actually was unfolding and the ability of everybody to play that was really the most amazing thing.
Yeah, absolutely because I love that through comedy you can tell stories like this filled with fun and joy. Can you talk to me about why comedy is so important, telling these stories with representation now more than ever?
Cheech Marin: Well, a sense of humor aids you in any situation, and it’s a way to relieve pressure or understand or put anybody at ease. I think that was my relationship with the kids. They knew me well enough that they knew that I had their best interests at heart. And so anything I said funny, they took it as being funny. They didn’t take it personally, and so that was a really great joy to work in that situation because a lot of these disabled kids want to just be treated normal. So you work to make them feel normal.
I think Bobby did a fantastic job directing this film. Can you talk about collaborating with Bobby and what his directing style added to the Champions?
Cheech Marin: Well, he is a very individual director. You don’t know if he is gruff, or he’s funny. He likes it when you stand your ground, he’ll still try to, if he has a different opinion, he’ll try to sway you over. But if you have an opinion, and you want to do it, “Okay, let’s go,” because he is real. It was really interesting working with him and his way with, especially with the basketball players. It was really wonderful to watch that.
Minor league basketball coach Marcus is fired, humiliated, and in trouble with the law. He is given court ordered community service, coaching a team of players with intellectual disabilities at the local community center. While coaching “The Friends” he learns how to be a better coach, better person, and discovers that working together this team could go further than anyone believed.
Check out our interview with Champions director Bobby Farrelly.
Next: Woody Harrelson’s Best Movies, Ranked