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Jeff Van Wie discusses new movie Four Minute Mile

Published by
DyeStat.com   Aug 8th 2014, 8:12pm

Van Wie discusses new film Four Minute Mile


By Doug Binder, DyeStat Editor

When Jeff Van Wie set out to write the screenplay for "Four Minute Mile," he started with a couple of simple ideas.

"I wanted to write a story about the coach-athlete relationship," Van Wie said. "I wanted a tight relationship between the two main characters but where it was symbiotic. They're not blood relatives but they are treating each other like they are."

The second idea was to capture the feeling of doing something historic.

"I wanted to write about the next kid to break four minutes (for the mile) in high school running, knowing what it takes to be able to do that," he said. "My hope was to have a film that could be inspirational and propel the next kid to do that."


Four Minute Mile, starring Kelly Blatz, Richard Jenkins and Kim Basinger (among others) opened with a limited release in 12 cities on Aug. 1. It is also currently available on Itunes, Amazon, Google Plus and on-demand with certain cable providers.

Van Wie discussed the new movie this week with DyeStat and hopes that it is out in time for high school cross country coaches find it before the new season starts.

"My hope it that it becomes the film that every cross country team in the U.S. and Europe watches right before the season and says 'This is the world of possibility,'" Van Wie said. "(The story) is all about what you can do when you set your mind to it and you believe in it."

Van Wie knows this material. In 1983, he ran 1:48.56 in the 800 meters while he was a student at New York's Suffern High School. Thirty-one years later he is still the all-time New York record holder in that event.

His two coaches at Suffern, Joe Biddy and Ralph Coleman, were "father figures" who helped him develop as an athlete and secure a scholarship at Notre Dame. The coach in Four Minute Mile is also named Coleman.

It was at Notre Dame that Van Wie happened to become roommates with novelist Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk To Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, etc.), who was also a member of the Irish track and field team.

Van Wie and Sparks teamed up a few years ago to write a Miley Cyrus movie called The Last Song.

For Four Minute Mile, Van Wie sought to go back to his roots and explore high school running, and also apply it to some of his favorite story arcs.

"Rocky – is my all-time favorite film," Van Wie said. "Another one is Vision Quest, which is about wrestling, but I love that aspect of reaching down inside and pulling something out you never thought you could do."

In the fictional Four Minute Mile, Blatz plays Drew Jacobs, a high school student with natural running talent who is on the verge of squandering his gift. Jenkins plays a former track coach who happens to notice the kid running and is intrigued enough to get involved. What follows is a classic mentor-apprentice story in the same vein as Finding Forrester or The Karate Kid.

In Van Wie's original story, the talented young runner was African-American and the story was set in New Jersey. But screenplays are often changed in process of turning them into movies, and Four Minute Mile was no exception. The lead character in the movie is white and the story is set in Seattle. And there is a reference to The Karate Kid that was added to the script as well.

Still, Van Wie's experience as a high school track star (he won the Golden West 800 in 1983) and his thorough understanding of the sport and the coach-athlete relationship are evident in the final product.

"You can tell that a track guy wrote this," Van Wie said.

As the young star runner pursues his goal of a sub-four mile, the splits on his workouts creep down from 63s to 58s.

Van Wie's best mile was 4:05 at a college meet in Arizona.

"After it was over I sat in the middle of the infield and said 'I've not got another second in me,'" he said. "I can appreciate the four-minute mile for having tried it."

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