A Conversation with Dr. Ernie Found about “THE MIRACLE SEASON,” the Movie About His Daughter’s Legacy

THE MIRACLE SEASON from LD Entertainment

Summer, 2011; Iowa City, Iowa. The girls of the West High School volleyball team were getting ready to defend their state title, when the unthinkable happened. On August 11, their team captain, Caroline, “Line” Found—a loving, energetic, powerhouse—died in a moped accident. A few days later, Caroline’s mother, Ellyn, died from pancreatic cancer. Caroline’s teammates and friends struggled with their grief. Coach Kathy Bresnehan and Caroline’s father, Dr. Ernie Found—struggling with their own grief—rallied the girls to move forward. The team went on to win the state championship a second time.

Based on this inspiring true story, THE MIRACLE SEASON was directed by Sean McNamara and stars Academy Award winner, Helen Hunt as Kathy Bresnehan; Academy Award winner William Hurt as Ernie Found; Danika Yarosh as Caroline ‘Line’ Found; and Erin Moriarty as Caroline’s best friend, Kelley Fliehler.

During a phone conversation with Paula K Parker, Dr. Found talked about his family and his thoughts on their story being made into a film.

Paula K. Parker: Caroline sounds like she was an amazing young woman. But she was young; what was the source behind her passion, her love, her determination?

Ernie Found: First, it was her mother. My wife, Ellyn, loved everyone and Caroline learned how to love from her. Caroline also learned from her older brother Gregg and her sister Catharine; she saw the choices they made, the way they treated people.

PKP: How did your family’s story become the subject of a major motion picture?

Ernie Found: Well, after the team won the state championship, Coach Bresnahan contacted Frank Deford, a famous sports writer, about the story. He came out with a camera crew and produced a segment for HBO’s show, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

After that aired, we were contacted by many Hollywood studios who wanted to make a film out of our story. But we said no; it was too soon, and we were too raw. We didn’t want anyone to Hollywoodize it.

But LD Entertainment was patient and kept contacting us. After a while, we started talking with them about it.

Helen Hunt as West High volleyball Coach Kathy Bresnehan [THE MIRACLE SEASON from LD Entertainment]

PKP: What is it like to see an Academy Award-winning actor portray you on the big screen?

Ernie Found: [laughs] It’s funny you should ask that. Movies come and go and falter and don’t get off the ground. When I heard that they got Helen Hunt involved, I thought, “Wow, they’re serious about this,” and I purposely flew out to L.A. to meet with them.

They asked me, “Who should we try to get to play you?”

I said, rather jokingly, “Clint Eastwood. He’s my kind of guy.”

They replied, “Well, it would take an enormous amount of time and makeup to make him look like you.” So, we scratched that one and they asked, “Who else?”

I said, “Well, how about me? Give me a couple of weeks of acting lessons. I can memorize lines. Let me have a shot at it.”

They looked at each other and then politically replied, “Well, we were kind of hoping that this would be a successful adventure.”

PKP: Did you have an opportunity to talk with Mr. Hurt, to give him insight into who you are?

Erin Moriarty as Kelley Fliehler, holding Caroline Found’s photo during the state volleyball championship. [THE MIRACLE SEASON from LD Entertainment]

Ernie Found: Yes. I went to the set in Vancouver and we met the first day I was there. I thought a lot about what I could say to him and, by the same token, how is he going to feel about this. If I were in his shoes, I would want to do one of two things. I’d either want to know absolutely nothing about this person that I’m portraying and allow the script and my theatrical abilities to take over. The opposite end of the spectrum is to find out as much as I can and give a real, honest portrayal of my perception of this person.

From my standpoint, I wanted to know if this guy had a sense of humor. When we first met, we chatted very briefly. I thanked him for taking this on and he said, “It’s a great honor.”

Then I said, rather jokingly, “Mr. Hurt, I want you to know; you’ve got your hands full.” I figured he was either going to laugh at that or he’d be scared and “What do you mean by that?”

Luckily, it was the former. He smiled and chuckled. We had dinner together and continued to communicate on a regular basis.

PKP: The film portrays you as a Christian, and that the loss of your daughter and wife understandably shaking your faith.

Ernie Found: Well, that was one part of the film that was made up. [After Caroline and Ellyn died] I raised questions, but a lot of things are out of your control and faith was a big part of it.

I never really said, ‘Where is God? Why me?’ But, Hollywood is all about conflict and conflict resolution and things that enhance the story. I said it was okay to include that.

I never felt like I was angry, because that wasn’t going to get you any place. Yes, I raised questions; but the more you search for answers for those questions, the more you seem to be digging yourself in a hole. Those questions a lot of time don’t have a satisfying, easy answer. It’s more trust and faith that good things will somehow come about.

That was one of our reservations, quite honestly, about going forward with the project. But they did a wonderful job of portraying the most important things.

PKP: What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing this film?

Ernie Found: I hope audiences will realize—and this is what kept us going—that this is the first real teen sports movie about young women. We need that, in this day and age. For people to understand and realize that women have strength and power and fortitude, and they can move forward, by being together and sharing your heart and being respectful of others. More happens in combination than does in individual isolation. Whether they won the state volleyball tournament was immaterial. To see them share love and share time together, that’s the most important thing.

Opening in theaters April 6, THE MIRACLE SEASON is rated PG for some thematic elements.


Website: http://www.miracleseason.movie/home/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miracleseason
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tweetLD
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/miracleseason/