Culture / Entertainment

Fort Worth Goes Hollywood — Red Carpet World Premiere of 12 Mighty Orphans Brings Out the Stars

When Cowtown's the Center of the Movie World For One Unforgettable Night

BY // 06.08.21

Fort Worth has stars in its eyes, with the release of 12 Mighty Orphans, the heartwarming Texas football movie shot in Fort Worth that stars Dallas acting icon Luke Wilson. It all culminated with the exclusive world premiere of the movie Monday night at the newly restored Downtown Cowtown at the Isis Theatre, which dates back to 1915.

Red carpet arrivals took place before the screening, with media lining the walkway, doing interviews and getting photos. Definitely not the usual scene in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Movies don’t often get made in Fort Worth, though that is changing thanks to the six-year-old Fort Worth Film Commission. Still, attending a red carpet world premiere along with Hollywood A-listers is an experience that those there will not forget.

Fort Worth dignitaries, Mayor Betsy Price and Mayor-elect Mattie Parker included, came out. The stars enjoyed a stroll down the red carpet, along with popcorn and a variety of beverages included an Old Fashioned made with Fort Worth’s TX Whiskey. Dressing for the event ranged from Western chic to all-out Hollywood glitz.

Movie – NBC 5 news anchor Deborah Ferguson gets out her selfie stick to capture the moment
NBC 5 news anchor Deborah Ferguson gets out her selfie stick to capture the moment. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

Actress Vinessa Shaw, who hails from Northern California, tells PaperCity Fort Worth that she didn’t get to do much sight seeing while she was in town during filming two years ago. But she did get to see a true Texas  legend.

“I was with my one and half year old,” Vinessa Shaw says. “We went to the Museum of Science and History and really enjoyed that. But Luke (Wilson) did have us see Willie Nelson when he came to Billy Bobs, so that was very special.”

Wayne Knight who plays the villainous Frank Wynne in the movie, is also a quick Fort Worth convert.

“I feel Fort Worth has its own individualized character,” says Knight, who is still most identified with playing Newman on Seinfeld. “It’s just been living in the shadows until now. It’s got a very different mood than Dallas. You can tell the difference as soon as you arrive in Fort Worth.”

Many of the actors in 12 Mighty Orphans felt more than comfortable in Fort Worth by the end of the shoot.

“I love Fort Worth,” says King Orba who plays the role of the Masonic Home’s Mr. Remmert. “I’ve enjoyed spending the week here and eating at Joe T’s. I just decided to stay this week since I was already filming something else in East Texas.”

Most of the cast stayed at the brand new Hotel Drover just off Mule Alley in the Fort Worth Stockyards. An after-party celebrating the movie premiere took place at the hotel after the screening.

12 Mighty Orphans tells the story of the Depression-era football team made up of orphans from Fort Worth that captured national attention during its Cinderella season. The film will be released in Texas first this Friday, June 11th, and then nationwide on June 18th.

Co-writer and actor Lane Garrison, who plays the role of Polytechnic football coach Luther, found himself deeply impacted by the project.

“I am an orphan as well,” he tells PaperCity. “It was football that saved my life.”

Garrison grew up in nearby Richardson and played high school football for J. J. Pearce. During the early days of shooting the film, he realized the young actors cast for the role of the Mighty Orphans knew little to nothing about football, so he held a mini two-day training camp to whip them into shape.

Garrison had donned a cream colored cowboy hat until the night of the premiere, when he finally removed it — to reveal that he had dyed and styled his hair like his character Luther in the film. He was reprising the look one last time.

Other stars of 12 Mighty Orphans who were on hand for this Fort Worth world premiere included Robert Duvall, Jake Austin Walker, Ron White, Rooster McConaughey (yes, Matthew’s brother), and the 12 Mighty Orphans, who ended the screening by joining hands and giving the audience one last pregame team chant.

Director and co-writer Ty Roberts walked the red carpet with his wife and producers Houston Hill, Brinton Bryan, Michael De Luca, and Angelique De Luca were on had as well.

Stars On the Loose in Cowtown

The cast, crew and producers began their long-awaited reunion on Sunday night at the National Cowgirl Museum for the opening reception of photographer Laura Wilson’s (Luke mother) and her “Behind The Scenes” exhibit.

“I feel like she’s stealing our thunder with her photo exhibit,” Luke Wilson jokes. “People ask me if I’m competitive with my (actor) brothers. Little do they know. I’ve got this mother…”

Movie – Cathleen Hodnett, Courtney Dabney and Luke Wilson
Cathleen Hodnett, Courtney Dabney and Luke Wilson. Photo by Courtney Dabney.

Wilson, Knight and several of the young actors who played the Mighty Mites were on hand to celebrate the photo exhibit. Many of the young men turned movie football players are locals, hailing from Weatherford, Argyle and Crowley.

Then it was on to Fort Worth’s Masonic Temple Monday morning for a panel discussion moderated by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. The panel included Roberts, Luke Wilson (who plays the orphans’ coach Rusty Russell ) and Shaw (who plays the coach’s wife Juanita).

During an interview with the mayor, Roberts talked of possibly expanding the story with a TV series spinoff of the movie. When asked if he would choose to film in Fort Worth again, Roberts shot back, “In a Fort Worth minute.” The director talked of being grateful to have so many authentic, period locales to shoot at, including the Masonic Temple and “The Fort Worth Woman’s Club ― which doubled as the White House.”

When asked about her favorite scene from the movie, Shaw immediately brought up the dancing scene with Wilson as one of her faves because it shows the intimacy between Rusty and Juanita. This husband and wife truly worked as a team, bringing a sense of family to the orphanage.

“I’m not a good dancer,” Wilson admits. “I had to remember they can fix it all in post-production.”

Nothing had to be fixed on the night of this red carpet world movie premiere in Fort Worth. Monday June 7 was even officially declared 12 Mighty Orphans Day in Fort Worth by Betsy Price’s mayoral proclamation.

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