COLUMBIA — Two years ago when Frank Hutto was writing a film script that called for a pastor with a football past, he didn't have a fictional character in mind. He was thinking of South Carolina great Marcus Lattimore.
In January, the former Gamecocks running back played himself during the filming of “Faith's Song,” produced by Lexington-based Northface Christian Films. Lattimore appears in one key scene in the movie, which according to producer Frank Hutto is scheduled for release in the fall.
“Marcus has done a lot of speaking, and he's been out in the public eye for a long time now,” Hutto said. “He did well. We coached him up a little bit, and we thought he did a good job. His role in the film, he's playing himself as far as testimony goes, but it's after football life and he's actually a pastor now. That was God's plan for him after playing football. Marcus was very natural at it, and I thought he did an excellent job for us.”
While Lattimore isn't a pastor — he runs a foundation, conducts youth camps, and after his graduation from USC in May became an assistant coach at Columbia's Heathwood Hall — the film version is close enough to the real thing. Lattimore became one of the more beloved players in Gamecocks history over a career shortened by a pair of knee injuries, and it was that backstory which Hutto and associate producer Dustin Wieble incorporated into the character.
“It is a Christian movie, and Marcus has such a great testimony of someone overcoming all the disappointments that he's had with his knee injuries and so forth,” Hutto said. “We'd already written him in, and once we started filming in January, we contacted him. ... Marcus said he would be excited to play the role if it was available. So instead of using someone else, we actually used him to play himself.”
Lattimore told Columbia's WACH-TV that the film is about a girl whose parents are killed in an automobile accident. “When you go through adversity, will you stand firm on God's word?” he said. “That's the message we're trying to get across.”
The film was shot in Newberry and around Columbia, with the Lattimore scene taking place at White Knoll High School in Lexington. Many of the crew members, Hutto said, were recent graduates from USC's film school. The film's trailer will be released Aug. 1, and the movie itself in mid-October with premiers scheduled for both Charleston and Columbia.
Hutto, also Northface's founder and chief operating officer, said Lattimore may have interest in other projects in the future.
“I think he does. There's some other stuff we're considering right now,” he said. “Marcus is a natural when it comes to talking to people. Once he avoids the camera and doesn't think about the cameras being there, Marcus is pretty natural in everything he does.”