Now here’s a rarity: A golf movie with great roles for women

Image of Squeeze movie posterCOMPLAINTS FLOW in and out of Hollywood about film roles that portray women as dumb and ditzy, mere sex objects. So thank you to the new golf movie The Squeeze, a caper flick with a male protagonist and a captivating plot, for bringing us two strong women characters in Natalie (played by Jillian Murray) and Jessie (Katherine LaNasa).

Of course they are both drop-dead gorgeous. But Jessie’s brain rivals that of her man, the wildly successful hustler Riverboat (Chris McDonald). When it comes to golf, Natalie can run with the boys, even though Jillian Murray had never played golf other than on a Wii. Oh, and maybe some miniature golf.

“Luckily, Terry was kind enough to teach me at Bel-Air Country Club before the film started,” Murray told GottaGoGolf. “So that definitely made it a lot more comfortable on set.”

Writer/director Terry Jastrow keeps a 5.5 index at Bel Air, where his famous actress wife Anne Archer, the movie’s co-producer, also plays. He first heard the story that became the movie when the two were having dinner with their friend Chris Flatt, head of international marketing for Wynn Las Vegas, and her husband, Keith Flatt.

“I knew Keith was from a small town in Texas,” Jastrow said, “and surely knew he was a great golfer, so we asked him about his life and he told us this story. He was a guy with a modest, humble beginning who entered his city’s amateur championship and won it by 15 shots, setting the course record. There was a big-time gambler making his way across the United States from Mississippi to Las Vegas and he got hooked up with him.

“Young Keith didn’t look anything like a champion golfer, but he never lost. They got run out of town, went to Las Vegas, and got involved in a game with a notorious Las Vegas gambler — and Keith got caught in a squeeze.”

“AND AFTER WE HEARD KEITH’S STORY,” ARCHER SAID, “TERRY AND I LOOKED AT EACH OTHER AND SAID, ‘OH MY GOD, THIS IS A MOVIE!’ “

No need to spoil any of the plot here. Just know that the theme from the movie “The Sting” plays in the background at one point for good reason.

Viewers will be on edge to see what happens when the Platt character, named Augie in the film, appears to have a choice only in the hand by which he dies. And of course, it is don’t miss for golfers — both male and female.

Archer chose Jeremy Sumpter (Into the Storm, Animal) for the role of Augie. “Terry had to find an actor that was just the right age with just the right naive, sweet quality that Augie has, but who could really play the game,” she said. “Jeremy has what is referred to as a ‘muni’ swing. He didn’t grow up at a country club with pros teaching him the golf swing. He learned on a muni course, like Lee Trevino or Chi Chi Rodriguez.”

“I play a lot of golf,” Sumpter said, “and it’s been on my bucket list to make a movie about golf.”

Image of actress Jillian Murray

Jillian Murray

It was Murray who beat out 1,671 submissions to play Sumpter’s beautiful, grounded and golf-gifted girlfriend in the film.

“When Jillian Murray came on the screen, it was a revelation,” Jastrow said. “She was so honest and so real and when we got to the end I was thinking ‘Why do I like her so much? Why do I think she’s so great?’ And Anne said ‘She’s not acting. She is the character. She’s completely fascinating and extremely interesting.’ ”

Indeed, said Murray, that’s what attracted her to the role. “Natalie had good morals and a good heart and wasn’t driven by money,” Murray said via email. “She believed in hard work and honesty, and those are the qualities I respect in others and what I live by also. So I think that Natalie is really just an extension of me.

“I’m always drawn to characters that I haven’t been able to play in a film and even though Natalie is the most like me in real life, I haven’t been able to play a girl like her in many projects. I’m always type-cast as a brat when in reality I’m really not.”

AND THEN IN THE EMAIL SHE TYPED 🙂

At the Hollywood-old age of 30, Murray knows a good role when she sees it. And, yes, she appreciates golf for the gift it brought her.

“Of course I’ll keep playing,” she said, adding, “I think I still need a lot more practice before I can play with Terry and Anne!”

The Squeeze opens today via a Groupon package including either Tom Watson’s popular “Lessons of a Lifetime” instructional DVD set or with $10 off a tee time booked via TeeOff.com, valid at more than 1,200 courses worldwide. And it opens Saturday in select theaters and in digital download through iTunes.

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