What’s the inspiration behind the film “Tommy’s Honour?” The answer to that question is just as intriguing as the film itself. I had the “honour” of sitting down with two of the producers, Jim Kreutzer and Keith Bank, the stars of the film Ophelia Lovibond and Jack Lowden, and director Jason Connery just a day before the film’s premiere to hear their thoughts and insights about the making of “Tommy’s Honour.”
The discovery of the book by the same name, written by Kevin Cook, is credited to Kreutzer as he and a friend who was recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Scerlosis (ALS), traveled to St. Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland“…as a bucket list trip,” Kreutzer explained. He continued, “He and I went as a part of immersing ourselves into Scottish golf. We bought the book, read [it], and couldn’t figure out why no one had made this film yet…it was a book that had such an amazing story with universal themes and I said, ‘How in the world did this slip through the studio cracks?’” Kreutzer then “cold called” the author, explaining that he was “…just this little guy. I didn’t tell him I was this dentist from Wisconsin. I thought that was a little too cheesy, so to speak,” he chuckled at the pun. The film took years to develop, bringing on financing headed by Bank and then Sean Connery’s son Jason to direct. Kreutzer laughed in recollection, “I cold called Jason out of the blue [and] he said to me, ‘You know this is Jason Connery, not Sean Connery.”
Kreutzer explained, “Jason, is the creative force behind the film. [He] had the same vision that I had. This was not a golf film. This was a film with golf as the background. It could have easily been tennis or bowling. Golf [though] is a sport that transcends so many emotions and so many feelings. I think there’s so much more to this than meets the eye. This is a must-see love story. And even more than that, this film has been used to promote and support other philanthropic endeavors such as raising awareness for the ALS Foundation as well as the Boys and Girls Club. As investor Ken Whitney told Kreutzer, “There’s also an emotional return on this investment and you can’t put a number on that.”
Emotions do run very high in “Tommy’s Honour,” as both Lowden and Lovibond expressed. Although Lowden hadn’t previously known this story, it did take place near his home in Scotland. He said, “When I heard about it I thought it was such a lovely story. Regardless of the fact that it was about golf, I just loved the story of this guy that achieved so much at such a young age and then disappeared at 24. I found it tragic…and amazing and really sad that he met the woman that he fell in love with and when that was taken away from him, he self-destructed…”
Lovibond was attracted to her character of Meg as she “…was quite strident and insubordinate.” On a lighter note, she found the costuming to truly add to the film, bringing us back to a forgotten era. Her blue dress, she laughed, “…couldn’t fit in the train! I couldn’t sit down in it so we had to take bits off and we had the boom operator and the camera operator all squashed because my dress was taking up so much room! It was so impractical!”
Lowden, quite taken with the costuming as well, found that his tweed suits were not only beautiful but also “they were surprising comfy,” he said. “I was worried about how the hell did they play golf in three piece suits….I’m told that it affected their swing because you do get to a certain point and the suit says you’re not going any farther.”
Now you might assume that because Lowden is from the Scottish Borders and he is quite an impressive golfer on camera, that he has played the sport for years—not the case! Lowden took about 8 lessons as did Peter Mullin who plays Tommy’s father. Lowden chuckled, “And it’s also a film! You swing the club for a second and they cut away. It’s the look of it rather than the ability. [But] I did get quite good at it!” Lovibond chimed in that she wasn’t a golfer either, but “I could still hit the ball really far.” The banter between the two was charming as Lowden reminded her that her swing was more like chopping. She didn’t disagree and laughed, “It looked more like I was angry with the ball. We took a video of it and they said it was the worst swing they’ve ever seen!”
Directing this connected young couple seemed to be quite natural with Connery who is also father. He truly understood relationships on all levels. Recalling learning about this true story, he said he had heard of “Old Tommy,” but, “I had no idea about young Tommy at all. I’ve played at The Old Course and I’ve seen all of the area.” Kreutzer gave Connery the book and he devoured it in a single sitting, engrossed by the passion these true life characters had for the game. Connery said, “I’ve watched a number of golf films and they fall into this trap of this sort of reverential element…I wanted to steer clear of that…Tom was a working man. He was worried about his son because he appeared to want to change the system and that’s always scary!”
The elements incorporated into this story are deep and meaningful as Connery explained that, “You have the church being such a powerful entity in the local community; you have the class system; and you have this father and son. I never wanted them to question the love they had for each other. And then you have this beautiful love story between Meg and Tommy.” While it is tragic, Connery explains an even more complex layer to their relationship for the time period: They considered one another equals and they loved each other very much. It wasn’t just an economic decision to get married. They typified the beginning of the next generation of marriages.
Feminism is yet another beautifully portrayed aspect of the film as Meg stood up for her beliefs. One of Connery’s favorite scenes is Meg confronting her mother-in-law, not backing down and speaking her mind. Connery with some regret in his voice said, “It’s not in the film, but there was a thing that the church did with the minister of a local community that would take a woman who had a bastard child or had done something sort of ill repute, supposedly. Not the man, I would have to say, but the woman and would name and shame them” repeatedly. When the minister felt they were no longer evil, he would bless them. “And she went through that! And not only did she go through it, she put a child next to her, hoping her child would be cleansed as well. That’s pretty brutal!” he exclaimed.
The film truly is so much more than a golf story. It’s a complex
and tragic love story as it depicts the heart and soul of relationships. Connery shared one man’s comments after a screening, “You know what you’ve done? You’ve made a chick flick for men.” He smiled and laughed, “I’ll take it! I’ll take it!”