You may remember Colin Ford from We Bought a Zoo. The budding star starred in that film in 2011 and has since had a successful career that includes roles in Netflix's Dahmer series and Captain Marvel.
He now stars as Rickey Hill in The Hill with Dennis Quaid.
ClutchPoints caught up with Ford during the press day for The Hill. The young actor sat there with a smile and thoughtfully contemplated every question thrown his way.
During this interview, Ford discussed the (very) long road that The Hill went on to get made, the advice Dennis Quaid and Matt Damon gave him, and the stigma against faith-based films.
Note: This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Colin Ford-The Hill interview
ClutchPoints: I just wanna get the boring question out of the way. How did you get this role and what was it that drew you to the project?
Colin Ford: Well my audition process actually took place quite a few years back. [I] got the script, read the script, fell in love with the story, fell in love with Rickey Hill and the idea that I might be able to bring his true life story to the screen. I went through a couple [of] auditions. I met with Jeff Celentano, the director, [and] we ran through an audition. He invited me back to have another audition with Dennis [Quaid], which was super nerve-wracking.
It was like 2018, 20 19, something like that [that I] did my audition with Dennis and it went really, really well, and Jeff called me a day later and said, “I'd love to have you onboard for the film.”
At that point in time, they were still dialing in all of the financing for the movie. And unfortunately, there was a snag in the road and we weren't able to make the film at that point in time, and then unfortunately the pandemic hit after that — so it was an even longer duration.
Then in 2021, they were able to secure some time in Dennis's schedule. And then also we were able to get the financing in place and we were able to make the movie.
So it was quite a big audition process or quite a long process from the beginning to the end.
I know that Jeff [Celentano], the director, was on the film for, let's say 10 years total, so it's been a long time in the making. But to that point, I think that it all happens for a reason — there's a reason why we were able to make it at that point in time.
When I first auditioned with Jeff and Dennis, I only weighed 120 pounds. I didn't look like a baseball player. I didn't feel like a baseball player. And by the time we started filming, I'd done a bunch of baseball training, some weight training, and done a whole lot of eating, and was up to like 175, 180 pounds by the time we started filming.
So I keep telling people, I think, everything happens for a reason and there was some sort of divine reason why we were able to start in 2021.
CP: With the audition process, was baseball part of that at all? Like, did they say, “Hey, you have to swing a bat?”
CF: So, yes. When I read with Dennis in the 2018-19 era, they went out and had me do some hitting — and I could hit pretty well. I played baseball up until like the ninth grade in high school, so I did have a little bit of experience from middle school [and] high school sports — but it had been a solid period of time since then.
So I definitely had some skills to work on leading up to the film. In 2021, I worked with a baseball coach for about three or four months beforehand, and then we had Mark [Robert] Ellis, [our] stunt coordinator, and Warren Osterguard, our producer, who were both heavy baseball backgrounds who worked with me once I got to set. So there was a lot of baseball training that I had to go through to kind of get Rickey's swing down and to, you know, just look like I could hit the ball as well as Rickey could.
CP: And you also mentioned that it was very nerve-wracking kind of doing that first audition with Dennis Quaid. Was there something that he did to get you more comfortable around him?
CF: Well it's kind of tough because the scene that I was auditioning was a very emotional scene. So before the audition, I was nervous. During the audition, I was all emotional. And at the end, I think right at the very end, Dennis came over to me and I think he gave me a hug or shook my hand or [something]. We had an embrace in some way and he kind of winked at me and he's like, “Good job.”
He kind of like said it to where Jeff didn't hear it, but it made me feel really, really good. And so I calmed down and then I think we chit-chatted for like 15 or 20 minutes. Once you start having normal conversations, you're like, “Okay, I don't have to do the scene again,” the nerves start to go away.
CP: You also mentioned that you played a little bit of baseball growing up. Where do you feel more pressure? Is it when you're filming a baseball scene you have to hit for a film or when you're in front of peers and friends playing actual baseball?
CF: Ooh, I don't know. Well, you get to do it as many times [when filming a scene]. You can do it again if you mess up on camera. If you mess a big hit up in the game and cause an out and [the] inning ends, I'd say that's worse because then your buddies are going, “Come on, dude. You could have brought us home.”
CP: I saw a clip online of you riding bulls for A Thousand Tomorrows. What was the harder training process — bull riding or baseball?
CF: Well, I will say I didn't have to actually ride any bulls. I did get on the back of a bull, but I didn't have to actually have to open the gate and ride. So I'd say that the baseball training overall was a longer process, a more intricate process. And there [were] a lot of times during the baseball I'd be like, “Oh, I'm hitting great!” And then the guys would be like, “That's not it.” And then I think it was like being like, “Oh man, all right, let me figure this out.” So it was dialing in[to] the specifics of baseball. So I think the baseball was a little harder.
CP: Baseball players have their walk-up songs as they go up to home plate — what would be your walk-up song if you were a pro baseball player?
CF: That's tough!… I don't know, the first thing that comes to my mind is “We Will Rock You” by Queen.
CP: In the film, I know Rickey has some people that support him, and some people that don't. In your own life, what's the best way people have supported you?
CF: Oh, that's super nice [smiles].
You know, I post on social media — I'm not as active as I should be — but I do read comments and I do get messages from folks, sometimes who will just share like an anecdote. [It] doesn't even have to be about like, “Oh, I love the show” that I was in, but sometimes they'll be like, “This particular thing that you did in this character really helped me in this way.”
And I think it's so cool because I never see the roles that I'm doing, or the dialogue that's in a script [as something] that could motivate somebody or be inspirational in some way.
I think this film more than others that I've been a part of do that, but I think it's so cool when someone will message me and say something like that and share with me how it affected them in a positive or negative way. I mean, crap, I haven't had too many negative ones [laughs], but I think it really, really makes me feel really good when I know that the power of film and the power of television are positively influencing people in their own lives.
CP: You do have a pretty big platform on social media, and I think it's interesting that you seem to have some sort of balance there. You said you don't post on it much, but you still also like that interaction with fans. How did you find that balance?
CF: I think it's just like, I started acting at a young age and social media didn't even exist at that point in time. Twitter was kind of like first on the horizon, and then you have Facebook and then Twitter, and then Instagram kind of came later — it was always something that I separated from [my] work. And I get it, that they kind of go hand in hand now, but for me, I always just wanted to be present and be doing things and share later.
CP: The Hill is a film about overcoming adversity, but what is a situation where you were kind of against all odds and you had to prove yourself?
CF: Hmm… Yeah, I guess an audition would be the layup, wouldn't it?
That's tough. I feel like every day, we're put up against challenges. We have to overcome certain things, but in acting, I feel like there's a lot of times where I go in for a meeting and I don't necessarily feel like I'm right for the job, I don't feel like I match the description, I don't feel like I'm the right look that's being described for the character, but I feel strongly that I am passionate about the role and I could do justice to the character.
So I feel like I kind of go through that every day in like an audition process. I am on constantly kind of fighting for my ability to be like, “Pick me, I'm the right one for the job.”
CP: You have a lot of credits to your name, but was there ever an audition where you felt like you were the perfect choice for the role and you ended up getting it?
CF: Oh, that's funny. Yeah, I do feel like that about Rickey Hill. I read the script and there was a Bible verse in it — Philippians 4:13, it's my favorite verse. It's something that I have in my Instagram bio and my Twitter bio and had [there] before the script came in. And once I saw that and just kind of saw the trials and tribulations that Rickey had gone through, I just felt like I could lend my own personal experiences in acting and wanting to become an actor, just like Rickey wants to become a baseball player.
CP: You mentioned a Bible verse — I don't know how religious you really are, but I know that Dennis has done quite a few faith-based films, is that something that you guys connected on at all?
CF: Yeah, it is. I mean, I think he has done some really cool ones more recently than ever, and I think that's really neat. I also coincidentally had A Thousand Tomorrows come out recently, and then The Hill timing wise came out right after as well, so it's kind of like been in my world a bit right now as well.
It is very cool. I know that Dennis has a gospel album that he's touring and promoting right now, so it's very much in the air.
CP: There is always a stigma with faith-based films, but as an actor in these projects, can I get your thoughts on them?
CF: Well, I think if you're just specifically talking about like faith-based films and the stigma that they're kind of corny, you're not wrong.
I think that if you're gonna make a film, it's gotta be a good film. We love The Hill because it's sports-based — it has faith elements, it [has] spiritual elements, but it's a great story. It's a story that people can connect to that people are gonna feel inspired by. I think ultimately that's what people wanna see when they watch a film. They want to feel inspired or moved in any way, one way or [another].
And I think that when you have [the] job of making a film or television show, that should be the focus. All the other stuff that comes into play, the faith, all that stuff that people are gonna take home, that's just a cherry on top.
But you have to make [a] good product first.
CP: Can you recommend me one of your favorites?
CF: Oh, man. Well, I was about to rewatch The Passion of the Christ, man, because I know they're gonna remake the other one (make a sequel). That one's a lot, but it is a wonderful film.
CP: I know you starred in We Bought a Zoo over a decade ago, I think I was 10 when that movie came out—
CF: You're dating me, man. You're aging both of us [laughs].
CP: I know. I'm sorry. Well, you're not that much older than me so, we're in the same boat here. But do you have any memories from that production?
CF: Actually, I carry a lot of memories very fondly from that time. I think that it was a very pivotal part of my life. There [are] some things that Matt Damon shared with me. He's someone that I looked up to, I still look up to, [and] would love to work together again on something.
Something that he told me, he kinda looked at me and he's like, “Hey man, better always [to] stay humble and just remember where you came [from],” like your roots. And it's really important. And it's so true. It's so important and it's so easy to get blindsided by like glitz and glam and like fun [in] Hollywood, blah, blah, blah, but I find that it's really important to stay rooted to where I came from, to remember my values, who my family is, and all those types of things.
And I'm just really thankful that I had someone like him, who I looked up to, tell me that at a young age.
The Hill will be released on August 25.