The movie Where Hope Grows features a former MLB player who has a drinking problem and broken family relationships after bombing out with the Detroit Tigers. He finds redemption and a second chance from an unlikely source -- a grocery clerk with Down syndrome whose nickname is Produce.
Just based on the trailer, this movie already delivers a memorable line. When Calvin, the washed-up ballplayer, asks Produce how he's doing, the response serves as a simple but powerful reminder to count your blessings:
"Even when I'm doing bad, I'm doing good."
David DeSanctis, who portrays Produce, has Down syndrome, and he had no acting experience when he auditioned for the part. But he memorized 130 lines and one of the producers, Milan Chakraborty, says DeSanctis learned how to work a set like a pro.
"Just like Rudy and Hoosiers, when given the opportunity, people -- all people -- can amaze you," says Chakraborty, an Indiana native.
The movie, written and directed by Chris Dowling, premieres Friday. Getting it made was its own underdog story.
"I read it in 2009," Chakraborty says. "For years people -- Hollywood 'experts' -- said, 'Don't make this movie. No one will care. How are you going to get someone to play like they have Down syndrome?' It took partnering with two other visionary producers, one of which I went to college with, and an investor, that believed into putting good out into this world. Even after making it, some theaters are not even willing to take us, even if we have an organization pre-buying 500 tickets. Why? Because they want one more screen for The Avengers, Mad Max and Pitch Perfect 2. It really is the story of David vs Goliath."
The Special Olympics World Games, which will be held this summer in Los Angeles, has endorsed the movie because of the way it is "promoting acceptance and inclusion and breaking down the barriers that exist for people with intellectual disabilities."
"David grew up a part of the Special Olympics and we want to bring awareness to athletes of all shapes and sizes and abilities," Chakraborty says. "They are all champions. People can do good and do well."
Notable sports stars have become big fans of the film after seeing it and meeting DeSanctis at early screenings.
The film also hit Angels star Albert Pujols on a personal level because his oldest daughter, Isabella, has Down. Pujols watched the film for the first time in December, and he found it so inspiring that he arranged for a special screening during Spring Training in Arizona. Former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner was among those who attended, and he loved it:
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) March 17, 2015
Here's an interview from the MLB Network with Kristoffer Polaha (Calvin) and DeSanctis, who talks about being an Angels fan: