McFarland, USA is the underdog tale of a gruff, leathery football coach (Kevin Costner) who turns a band of misfits into a team of high school cross-country champions. The film, which opens Friday, is based on McFarland High’s journey to the 1987 California state cross-country championships, the first year of the state championships. We recently spoke to director Niki Caro—a New Zealander whose previous films include Whale Rider and North Country—about the film, Costner and sports movies.
SI: Given your body of work, a mainstream Disney sports movie does not seem an obvious choice for you. What drew you to this particular story?