Film about the life and career of Astros icon Nolan Ryan premieres at South by Southwest Festival

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Inspired by another sports icon, Houston native Bradley Jackson was pushed to direct a film about Texas legend Nolan Ryan.

“I had just watched the Michael Jordan documentary ‘The Last Dance’ for the second time,” Bradley recalled. “And as a filmmaker who works a lot in documentaries, I was very jealous of this film. ‘Where’s my last dance? Who is the athlete I’m obsessed with?’”

Nolan Ryan was the answer.

So Jackson, who was born and raised in Houston with Ryan as his childhood hero, worked with two collaborators to pitch a pitch for the Ryan family. Just over a year later, after a nudge from Nolan’s wife Ruth, to Nolana documentary about the life and career of Ryan, will premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival on Saturday.

“[Jackson]ended up making a movie that, whether you’re a die-hard baseball fan or someone who doesn’t know anything about Ryan, you’ll find the story interesting,” said Reid Ryan, Nolan’s son and explained an executive producer of Facing Nolan”. “He really was like the last class of players to have Depression-era parents with incredible work ethics. His Texan roots and who he was on the field represented a lot of people in the way they live their lives in that state, and I think Nolan Ryan the Texan and the baseball player are synonymous.”

Jackson, who worked on the film with producer Russell Wayne Groves and cinematographer Jacob Ryan Hamilton, says “Facing Nolan” is a love story wrapped in baseball.

“Nolan Ryan may be the main character of this film, but his wife Ruth and their family are the real engine behind the Ryan Express,” Jackson noted. “They helped bring his record and achievements to life.”

Ryan family members aren’t the only Lone Star State legends in this film, as famous Texans such as President George W. Bush, Craig Biggio and Roger Clemens also star. The film premieres at 2:45 p.m. Saturday and will have additional availability throughout the SXSW festival.

“I think it’s a sense of pride,” Reid said of his emotions approaching the world premiere of ‘Facing Nolan.’ “I think we put together the team that really told a story that is the real Nolan Ryan – a story that’s interesting and top notch – and the editing and cinematography is amazing. I don’t want to spoil it for people, but it’s just a very well made film and I think whatever people’s expectations are when they go in and see it, it’s going to exceed them.”

“I feel like so many of our athletes have these dark sides that we uncover either while playing the game or later in life, and I wasn’t interested in doing that type of film,” Jackson said. “And (Ryan) isn’t that type of guy. Not that he’s a perfect person, but there aren’t any real skeletons in the closet. It’s just a really family-friendly film. He just has a bit of edge because he’s in fights and hitting people and being a little bit like a cowboy, but there’s something for everyone.”

Bradley and Reid say their hope is to have “Facing Nolan” available for both in-person viewing and streaming sometime in 2022.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. Film about the life and career of Astros icon Nolan Ryan premieres at South by Southwest Festival

Dais Johnston

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