Ron Shelton is the writer and director of films including “Tin Cup,” “Bull Durham,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” and “Cobb.” Authenticity is so important to Shelton when he makes films because when he was growing up, he could not stand how inaccurate all of the sports films that he saw were and so once he could take the helm, he wanted to make sure that those films were as accurate as possible. He added that golf is the most difficult sport to make a film about.
When he was making “Tin Cup,” he did the best he could to cast actors who had authentic swings which meant that they did not necessarily have the prettiest swings in the world. Knowing that the golf swing is impossible, he was limited in how much pressure he could put on his actors to have good swings on camera regardless of their experience. There is something interesting about the game of golf that makes people act a certain way.
There is a reason that certain players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are stars in the world of golf and that reason is that they are good theater. When you watch Phil, you have no idea if he is going to flame out or not and when you watch Tiger, you are always expecting something very dramatic and if someone can be good theater, they can be a star.
In the sports films that he has made, he found that in his baseball and basketball films the actors knew the language very well because in many cases they had played in high school and in college. Golf is different because in many cases, if actors did play golf, they knew what it was like to play a public course on the weekends but they did not know what it would be like to be out on the PGA TOUR and to spend time with caddies, players, and TV officials.
If he could pick a sports film that was not his own as a favorite, he would pick “The Hustler” because of the script, the direction, and the acting of wonderful talents like Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman. One script that he is currently working on is about Q-School and the kinds of stories that can come from that week-long gauntlet every year. He enjoys working with professional broadcasters like Jimmy Roberts because they are used to going on camera without a script and having to get it right in one take.