William Fichtner & Ali Afshar on ‘American… by Uinterview

Will there ever not be a need for movies to remind us that it doesn’t matter where we come from or what we are, but only who we are? William Fichtner, who plays Coach Plyer in American Wrestler: The Wizard, says, ‘no.’

“I think you can tell that story over and over again. I think it needs to be heard because sometimes it’s forgotten,” Fichtner told uInterview exclusively.

“It’s not the color of your skin, it’s not where you are from, it’s who you are, it’s what you do. I mean, isn’t that our country? I think so. I hope so.”

American Wrestler is based on the life and experiences of the film’s producer, Ali Afshar, and his Iranian family as they immigrate to the United States around the time of the Iran hostage crisis and the Iranian Revolution.

“It was a really though time to be in America. Being an Iranian is one of the worst things to be in America because it just has such a bad wrap,” Afshar told uInterview.

But despite the prejudice Afshar and his family faced, the young teenager joined the wrestling team at his high school and soon became a town hero.

“Through wrestling I got the school, the town, and the people to actually accept me and love me. I call Petaluma [California] my hometown, it is where we actually shot this movie.”

Afshar put it on himself to prove to the town, his peers, his teachers, and coach that he was a dedicated student and athlete, and an overall good person who kept to their word.

“That’s who he is,” says Fichtner of Ali’s character.

Whether you need a reminder or not, American Wrestler tells a story we could all stand to listen to at least one more time.

American Wrestler: The Wizard also stars George Kosturos and Jon Voight.


Q: Ali, how was this movie inspired by your life story? -

The movie is actually inspired by me and my whole family’s story. We took my brother’s, my parent’s, my uncle’s journey and put it together and made one great story. We moved here in the time of the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, right in the time of the middle of the Iran hostage crisis and the Iranian Revolution which, a lot of the viewers might remember it as more of the ‘Argo’ time when the Ben Affleck movie was done. So it was a really tough time to be in America, it probably still is. Being an Iranian is one of the worst things to be in America because it just has such a bad wrap and the government is so… you know, I don’t get into politics but the people are great but the government and I don’t see eye-to-eye. It was a lot of prejudice, a lot of being an outsider, and justifiably. The country had taken Americans hostage, so you weren’t very welcome here. And we were in a very small town, everyone was white, we were the only Iranian people there so it was a challenge. Just like everything. When you go somewhere new, you’re not immediately accepted. But the beauty of this is that it didn’t take that much time. Through wrestling I got the school, and the town, and the people, to actually love me and accept me. I call Petaluma my home town, it is where we actually shot this movie, the actual real locations, the homes, the schools and what not. So it is the story of my whole family but really any Iranian and other immigrant coming to America in a time, you know, it would be like being Syrian right now or something. It is very relevant still.

Q: William, how does your character fit into Ali’s story? -

What I loved about the script the first time I read it and looking at the role was that this was a gentleman that was going through his own journey in his life and was on hard times and found himself, at the beginning of this movie, actually living in his office in the gym because his wife tossed him. I loved that he was a guy that was finding his way. [He was] a Vietnam vet and everything wasn’t in sync in his life. Here comes this young man looking for a chance and is willing to give his all and that meant something to the coach and it certainly meant something to me when I read the script. I love this journey and that they believe in each other and you know how far can we go. As much as the character of Ali gained and the success that he had as a wrestler in the film, it was just as uplifting for Coach Plyer.

Q: How will viewers connect this story to current politics? -

Do have to keep saying this over and over? It’s not the color of your skin, it’s not where you are from, it’s who you are, it’s what you do. I mean, isn’t that our country? I think so. I hope so. So that’s this story. How hard are you going to work? How hard are you going to try? Are you a good person? Do you care about what you do? Do you care about other people? Are you willing to back up your words with truth? And this young man in the film, played by George K., is an incredible performance, that is who is. And he does find his way. Well I think you can tell that story over and over again. I think it needs to be heard because sometimes it’s forgotten.