Eddie Cahill and Jim Craig Talk About "Miracle"

Bringing the US Olympic Hockey Miracle Team to the Big Screen

Eddie Cahill Miracle
Eddie Cahill and Patrick O’Brien Demsey in "Miracle.". Walt Disney Pictures

Eddie Cahill came into "Miracle" having starred on TV and in movies, yet when the casting call went out, it was non-actors who were actively being sought. Cahill didn't let that deter him from pursuing his opportunity to portray one of his heroes - Olympian Jim Craig, goalkeeper for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.

Eddie Cahill joined the real Jim Craig to discuss "Miracle," directed by Gavin O'Connor and starring Kurt Russell as Coach Herb Brooks:

How cathartic is it to relive these events?
Jim Craig: I think that what I love about the movie is that it’s not about us; it’s about everybody talking about what they were doing and how it affected them. I mean, the first thing anybody ever tells me is, “When that thing happened, I was here. This is what I was doing. This is what we were doing. This is what it did for me.” And so, when I’m watching that I’m thinking, “Boy, 24 years later it’s doing different things for me, too.” When I’m sitting there watching I’m thinking, “This is a great legacy. This is a wonderful thing.” When I’m an old man and passed, my son is going to be able to throw this DVD in and his son hopefully – or daughter – will be able to see what his dad was like. I think it’s timeless, this type of thing.

Are you surprised it’s still so prominent in people’s memories?
Jim Craig: You know, sometimes I don’t think you realize how lucky you are.

What I loved about the movie is the start of the movie, where it just takes you back and it lets you not only look at the clothes you wore but it tells all these really most important things that’s happened. And how many times American soldiers have protected our freedom. The legs this has, and continues to have, is because it’s something that makes you feel really good.

Eddie, you and I were saying this yesterday: it takes you to this special spot of yours. This little dream that you are afraid to tell anybody that you’re going to fail at. Maybe you are a singer and you don’t want anybody to know. You’re practicing and all of a sudden you become one. It lets everybody do that all the time.

What did this movie do right that most hockey movies get wrong?
Jim Craig: You know why this is so great and why it took so long to do? This is not a hockey movie. This is a story about being American and having dreams and telling people you are afraid to fail. As far as the accuracy goes, this is dead-on. Gavin [O’Connor] did an unbelievable job at explaining what it was like to be on this team.

What do hockey films usually get wrong about the sport?
Jim Craig: First of all, everybody doesn’t really know the game so you’re starting out with people watching it and they don’t really know what to look for. And then, to make it easy for people when it is a hockey film, you have to make it uninteresting for people who know the game. All of a sudden you’re watching it and you’re saying, “How did they do that? That’s not possible.” That’s because you’re a hockey fan and you know it.

Then when you’re doing it the right way, people who don’t understand the game say, “What are they doing?” I just think here it wasn’t the hockey as much as it was the story.

Were you concerned Hollywood was going to take away the social and political environment and turn it into a sports movie?
Jim Craig: I think what’s interesting is that most of us don’t even care that they did a movie. What we care most about is that they didn’t ruin the story. When I met Eddie for the first time it was really interesting because we just said, “Go with it, Eddie. It’s there. You don’t have to change anything, you just have to tell the people the story.” I think the movie did a great job of that.

Eddie, you’re one of the more accomplished actors in the bunch. Did the guys come to you for advice?
Eddie Cahill: I think what happened was when we came together as a group, we pretty quickly discovered we had one goal to accomplish and that was to tell the story.

I think every one of us was too young to remember it but being hockey fans growing up, we knew the story. We had idol worship of each and every one of them in the story itself. When we realized we had that in our hands and that was the main goal, all coming from different backgrounds, all lacking in something else, we pretty quickly discovered not only that we needed to but that we could rely on each other. It often wasn’t spoken about, it just kind of happened by way of the 6-week hockey camp we went through. I think the guys realized pretty fast that I’d never played goal so it became about encouraging in that respect. But when we realized we had such a huge task that being in that group of guys, it really just felt like being in an inspiration and encouragement soup. I mean, it’s really what it felt like. It was just an ongoing thing.

PAGE 2: On Goalie Challenges and Herb Brooks' Test

Kurt Russell / Nathan West / Billy and Buzz Schneider

Additional “Miracle” Resources:
“Miracle” Photos, Trailer, and Credits

People don’t really appreciate how grueling it can be to be a goalkeeper. Did you reach a new level of appreciation for goalies?
Eddie Cahill: The first time I put the pads on was actually at the final audition for the movie, which was a game that we played. I myself didn’t have an appreciation for the physicality having never done it. The economy of motion is so small but so concentrated. [It’s] so compact and you have to do so many things at once. You have to be incredibly focused, so relaxed, so fast, and I don’t know how to describe it other than it’s more than I’ve ever sweat in my entire life. It’s more than my legs have ever done in my entire life, no matter how far I ran, getting across that crease for the first time was quite an endeavor. I absolutely developed an appreciation physically.

Jim Craig: You know what’s really funny? When I try to explain playing goal [it’s as] if you go to work all day and you come home and you’re a different type of tired than if you go out and do manual labor. Well, goal is both. You have manual labor and you’ve got all that stress. It’s almost like the movie “Terminator.” When a person comes up the ice, there are 10 things a person can do, then there are 7 things a person can do – you’re eliminating things as a person comes at you. You are eliminating options. You are like a coach because you need to know everybody’s position and where it could go and where it should go and why it should go.

I think why I was better at European or International hockey was because they were much more intelligent when they play. The NHL is more like they shoot from everywhere. It doesn’t make sense. And so it was really a lot of fun for me to play internationally. But the challenge of goal is so much of a mind game.

Eddie Cahill: One more thing dawned on me about the challenge of goaltending, which doesn’t look like much – one of the hardest things that I had to learn was the commitment to stillness and how exhausting that can be. Waiting for something to happen because you don’t ‘do’ as a goalie – and Jimmy and I have talked about this – you wait for something to happen and then you react. That sort of stillness and focus infiltrates the whole because it’s an aggressive stillness, an acquired stillness. There’s a lot going on there.

Jim Craig: Another thing about goaltending is you have to understand the weaknesses and strengths of every player and you have to be able to utilize those strengths and weaknesses. It’s almost like a guy without a lot of hair. You push it over here and you have to be able to take people’s talents and utilize them.

Given your recent TV experiences on “Friends,” was it hard for you to persuade the filmmakers that you could do something like this?
Eddie Cahill: I don’t know. All I know is that I had him to inspire me initially, and then I just ran after it. The second I knew it was a movie, the second I knew they were doing this, I ran I ran I ran – and did whatever I had to do.

Why was the movie so important to you?
Eddie Cahill: It was an opportunity to play one of my heroes. Obviously it was Jimmy’s talents that inspired me at first, then it became the small things. It was the little things like seeing two Shamrocks on the mask. Being an Irish-American, watching him look for his father in the crowd and knowing my relationship with my father, it moved me. And that sort of took over. I wasn’t thinking necessarily anything, just do what you’ve got to do to try and make this happen. Run as far as you can and if you’ve got to, put the goal pads on. The first time I did was in an audition. I’d never done it.

The movie makes a big deal of the test Herb Brooks gave to his players. Did you ever end up taking the test?
Jim Craig: What’s really funny is that I have a really good memory but I was with Danny Brooks and he was saying, “You know, you really pissed my dad off when you didn’t take that test.” I don’t remember because at that time in my life, dealing with losing my mother and my father being at home, I was taking it day by day.

I didn’t know how long it was going to last there. Every time I’d call home [it would be], “How are you doing?” Here’s a man who has a wife of 40 years and he’s got two teenage boys, and she did everything. All of a sudden now he’s there by himself. I’m calling home, “How’s he doing?” He started knitting, he sat at home, he didn’t get rid of her clothes – it was a very traumatic time. And so taking a test wasn’t a big deal to me, but it was a big deal to him. It was so trivial to me at that time. Here I was, “I’m here to play hockey.” It wasn’t defiance that I wasn’t doing it, it was like I was overloaded. “Oh, I didn’t take it?” I didn’t know.

Kurt Russell / Nathan West / Billy and Buzz Schneider

Additional “Miracle” Resources:
“Miracle” Photo Gallery
“Miracle” Trailer, Credits, and Websites