Brandon Burlsworth movie set for general release in Arkansas, elsewhere on Aug. 26

by Rose Ann Pearce ([email protected]) 540 views 

A much-anticipated movie based on the life of University of Arkansas football standout Brandon Burlsworth will be released Aug. 26 in movie theaters across Arkansas.

The movie, entitled “Greater, the Incredible True Story of the Greatest Walk-on in the History of College Football,” will be shown at the Razorback Theater in Fayetteville and Rogers Town Center in that city, said Brian Reindl, adding he is negotiating for a third screen in Northwest Arkansas. Two screens in Fort Smith also are among the theaters across Arkansas showing the movie. (See the trailer below.)

The general release will blanket Arkansas movie screens as well as screens in at least 12 states in the Southeast and Midwest from Nebraska to the tip of Florida. Screens in Arizona and southern California will also show the movie.

For times and ticket information, movie-goers can check, Reindl said. The movie will continue to be shown as long as people come to see it, generally from three weeks to three months.

A special premiere will be held at the Razorback Theater on Aug. 23 when six of the actors will be on the red carpet. The movie showing will be followed by a question and answer session. Tickets are $25 and proceeds will be donated to the Motion Picture Institute.

The movie was originally scheduled for general release in January but was delayed because of the popularity of “Star Wars” and other recent releases which have taken over movie screens around the country for extended runs.

Reindl, a Fayetteville real estate investor, spent 11 years developing the screenplay and producing the movie. The project was based on the 2001 book “Eyes of a Champion, the Brandon Burlsworth Story” by Jeff Kinley. The movie was directed by David Hunt, who also co-wrote the screenplay, and stars Christopher Severio, as Burlsworth, with Neal McDonough, Leslie Easterbrook, Michael Parks and Nick Searcy.

If there were ever a person who personified the “can do” attitude, it surely would be Brandon Burlsworth, Reindl said in an earlier interview.

After Burlsworth graduated from Harrison High School in 1994, he was offered scholarships to play football at several small colleges but he had his sights set on becoming a Razorback. He enrolled at the University of Arkansas, joining the team as a walk-on and eventually became an All-American. He was known for his thick black glasses and his resemblance to comedian Drew Carey, besides his incredible talent on the football field.

Burlsworth was killed in a car accident at age 22, 10 days after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the 1999 NFL draft. He was traveling to Harrison from Fayetteville to go to church with this mother.

In death, Burlsworth has left a legacy of that can do spirit as the foundation that bears his name carries on his belief that every child is a gift. The foundation is dedicated to support the physical and spiritual needs of children, especially those with limited opportunities, by working with disadvantaged children, meeting health care and other needs. The Burlsworth legacy is advanced through eye care programs, football camps and game tickets and other activities.

The first public screening was held in January at the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock as a fundraising event for the Arkansas Hall of Fame, Reindl said. The general release was delayed until this summer. The movie received a standing ovation at the Little Rock premiere.

More than 2,000 showed up when casting calls went out in Fayetteville, Little Rock and Louisiana. Much of the movie was shot in Fayetteville and Little Rock.

“This is not a traditional faith-based film but more a hope-based one,” he said. “I want people to walk away feeling inspired or to become a better person. I set out to tell Brandon’s story.”

Reindl is a UA alumni, and an avid Razorback fan who bleeds Razorback red “down to the bone,” he said.

“I remember Brandon and saw when he was drafted by the Colts and I was watching the same television 10 days later when it was reported he had been killed,” Reindl said. “My motivation was to tell his story. It feels really good to have the movie coming out. It’s exciting to birth the baby. I had no idea it would take this long.”

“This is not like any other football movie,” he said. “The intent was to capture the sweetness and purity of Brandon Burlsworth.

Former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and former Athletic Director Frank Broyles have cameo appearances in the movie as does Quinton Aaron, the actor who portrayed football pro Michael Oher in the movie “The Blind Side.”

A special feature is the performance of the hymn “I’ll Fly Away,” one of the most recorded gospel songs ever. It was written by Alfred Brumley in 1929 while he was attending the Hartford Musical Institute in Hartford, Ark. His son sings the song in the movie. Another song, rooted in Arkansas, is also featured in the movie. “Victory in Jesus” was written by E.M. Bartlett in 1939. Bartlett founded the Hartford Music Co. He conducted singing schools around Arkansas and in bordering states for 20 years.

Members of the Chi Omega sorority at the University of Arkansas also make a cameo appearance in the movie.

“There is something in the movie for everyone,” he said. “People do feel when they leave the theater. I hope the movie inspires people to be a better parent, brother or son.”

Movie-goers “won’t regret going to see it,” he predicted.