We’ve seen this advertised on millions of books, tv shows, and movies: Based On a True Story. This was the first time I actually interviewed the people who were an inspiration. The first thing you notice when they walk into the room is the deep respect for one another and their “coach” they still have to this day. Jim White, David Diaz, Damacio Diaz & Danny Diaz are the true definition of the word HEROES. Not from winning an award or because of fame. These guys are hometown heroes first and foremost. They STILL live and work in McFarland. They keep in touch, attend dinner at each others houses. This is what Based On a True Story should mean. These are the guys who inspire each other, inspire kids in McFarland, and will soon inspire millions. Check out the interview below:
Q: My dad and grandfather were both pickers in Texas, so you do feel like the movie does a good job of describing that culture?
DAMACIO DIAZ: Yeah, we’re very, very proud of the way the movie portrayed us, our family. We were raised in the field (and it )was our life. We started picking and hoeing and raking and doing everything you could possibly think of. We were about seven or eight years old when all that began. So for us, it was a way of life. Even some of us, after graduating college, like Danny, the day after he graduated from the university with the diploma, he was in the fields working, because that was, in our family, what was expected — until he got hired and, and got his job. So, for us it was normal.
Q: I wanna know is your mom really that way, because she was a scene stealer.
JIM WHITE: Let, let me answer that, ’cause when Mrs. Diaz saw this film the first time, she came out and she said I love the film, but they didn’t make me strict enough.
Q: So, how’s McFarland changed, um, now that the movie’s out
DANNY DIAZ: I can answer that. Growing up in McFarland we didn’t have much. There’s nothing to do in McFarland. When we were growing up, maybe seven, eight, nine, ten thousand people is the population. It’s grown a little bit in the last two, three years but, not much has changed. It’s poor community. You’re driving on 99, the freeway, and you blink and you’ll miss it. There’s not much to do there. We don’t have the big malls. We don’t have actually any [CHUCKLES] malls.
We don’t have the big grocery stores. It’s just a fun place to be. If it weren’t for sports our kids would be lost, because it’s either education and sports or the streets. Those are the two extremes and those are the two options that are there for our community. Right now our community is excited, obviously with the movie and rightfully so. All the notoriety that they’re getting and what this man over here, Mr. White, our coach, has brought to not just our program but to our community. We all feel grateful and we, uh, the c– whole community’s just embracing it.
In the film there is a scene of these guys still running with current and past members of the cross country team. While they don’t train they are still in good shape!
DAVID DIAZ: We run once in a while amongst ourselves. I still currently run. I still race, competitively even though, you know, you’re not as good as you once were. I still do that and I coach. But the guys over here we’re in decent shape still
DAMACIO DIAZ: Our kids all compete. We have kids that are in high school and some that are in elementary school. I can’t keep up with my kids in high school [CHUCKLES], but I go by a little seven-year-old. We run three, four, five miles a day just to stay in shape.
Q: I wanna know what your guys’s first reaction was when you heard that not only was your story going to be a movie but specifically this movie and knowing what these, you know, true life, inspirational movies become?
JIM WHITE: Well, from my aspect, I guess it was in various stages, because this was about a 15-year process for us, my wife and I. We signed with this one company. Two years later, we signed with another one, not quite that often, but, it took a long process. When actually Disney did it we were thrill very much so that Disney had it, because then we knew that it shouldn’t have any sex and cussing and cigarettes and this type of thing, you know. We were very happy that that was going to take place.
Q: How much or any input did you have to have on the filming, the making the movie?
DAMACIO DIAZ: Mr. White might have more than us. We basically told our story, got interviewed for hours and hour and hours and that was pretty much it. Mr. White had a lot more influence in how this script was written.
McFARLAND, USA (opening in theatres on 2/20)