In a film career that has spanned more than 65 years, Pat Boone, in his new movie, “The Mulligan,’’ got to do something he had never done in front of the cameras.
“I got to weep,’’ the 87-year-old entertainment legend told me from his office in Beverly Hills, CA. “I didn’t know if I could do it, but I did.’’
Boone’s tears are a pivotal moment in “The Mulligan,’’ which opens today in limited release. The movie tells the story of a relationship between an old golf professional, Will Dunn (Boone), and an intensely driven, golf club throwing, sports car driving CEO named Paul McAlister (Eric Close), who is a success in everything – except life. Separated from his wife and estranged from his son, McAlister’s focus is only on his next boardroom deal. That is, until he realizes his life needs a do-over… a “mulligan.’’
That’s where Boone’s “Old Pro’’ becomes a mentor and spiritual guide. In a way, Boone’s “Old Pro’’ character is similar to Burt Lancaster’s “Moonlight’’ Graham character “Field of Dreams.’’ Each old man offers life lessons to a younger man who wonders why things happen the way they do.
In “Field of Dreams,’’ Graham gets a second chance to play one game of Major League Baseball; in “The Mulligan,’’ Close’s McAlister gets a second chance with his family. And yes, even the Old Pro was given a second chance. It’s that heart wrenching revelation that led Boone to real tears while filming the scene. And it’s that second chance that convinces McAlister that there is more to life – and living – than mega-deals and Maseratis.
Directed by Michael O. Sajbel, “The Mulligan’’ is based on the best-selling book, “The Mulligan: A Parable of Second Chances’’ by Ken Blanchard and Wally Armstrong. Much of movie was filmed at Currahee Golf Club in the north Georgia town of Toccoa.
“It has a Christian theme, but it’s a solid golf movie,’’ said Boone, who starred in 1959’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,’’ and “State Fair’’ in 1962. “Life is God’s Game. You play on his course. I love the story. I think it’s the best dramatic acting I have ever done.’’
Boone certainly is no stranger to golf courses. He hosted two celebrity golf events in the 1970s in Seattle, and was a staple of the celebrity-driven, early season events on the PGA Tour in the 1970s and ’80s. Among those, he played in 18 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am’s at Pebble Beach, now the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“At my best I was a 15-handicap,’’ Boone said. “My ambition was always to get down to a solid 10. But being over 80 years old, I’ve sort of abandoned that ambition.’’
It was Crosby, Boone’s role model as a singer, who in 1957 sponsored his membership into iconic Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. Boone, in fact, channeled a bit of Eddie Merrins – Bel-Air’s legendary golf professional – into “The Mulligan’’ in a scene in which the Old Pro is teaching a group of young golfers from the Payne Stewart Kids Golf Camp, a real-life organization..
Boone even wore Stewart’s signature “Plus Fours’’ as the Old Pro. He didn’t have to have much wardrobe help in that regard.
“I have about 20 of them because I played in so many tournaments,’’ Boone said. “They were made byTim Barry – the same man who made Payne’s. He even made me a kilt that I wore one time in a tournament.’’
So, from the late, charismatic Stewart, to Boone’s “Old Pro’’ to the “Little Pro’’ Merrins, “The Mulligan’’ has something for every golfer – and for everyone who needs a mulligan in life.
The movie’s lesson: You don’t need to be a golfer to ask for a mulligan. You just need faith.
Photo: Pat Boone (left) and Eric Close (IMDb)