IOWA CITY — What would Caroline have thought of all this hubbub?
Ernie Found smiled, lowered his head for a moment, then gazed forward.
“She’d say, “What, a movie about me? Hell, yeah!’”
Dozens walked the red carpet Sunday at Englert Theater, and hundreds more stood in line for a hometown screening of The Miracle Season, based on the life and death of Caroline Found, and Iowa City West’s unlikely march to a state volleyball championship that followed.
The movie will open nationwide April 6.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” former West coach Kathy Bresnahan said. “You see the marquee, and it feels like your wedding day. It’s built up and built up for so long.”
Bresnahan, 59, was the coach when West won back-to-back state titles in 2010 (with Found as a junior setter), then in 2011 (the repeat came about three months after Found was killed in a moped accident on Mormon Trek Boulevard.
Kelley Fliehler assumed the role of setter after Found’s death. She was one of several members of the 2011 title team in attendance Sunday.
Neither Helen Hunt (who played Bresnahan) nor William Hurt (he played Ernie Found) were at the screening. But Danika Yarosh (she played Caroline) was, and so was director Sean McNamara.
“I got the call (from screenwriter David Aaron Cohen) in 2015, and within five minutes of starting to read the script, I was bawling,” McNamara said. “The movie reminds me a lot of We Are Marshall, in which something good happened after great loss.”
Movie officials required that all media attending Sunday’s screening, including The Gazette, sign a non-disclosure agreeement and hold any reviews of the movie until April 5.
The movie was filmed primarily in Vancouver, for tax reasons.
McNamara has three sons.
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“I wish I would have known Caroline in real life,” he said. “She was an amazing young girl. She had that spunk, that energy. She had fun with life.”
Bresnahan authored a book, also titled The Miracle Season, which was released in February. In addition to her teaching responsibilities at West and Iowa City Liberty, she has been caught up in a whirlwind of activities surrounding the book and now the movie. She is scheduled to be on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in April, along with Hunt.
She called Sunday’s activities “a celebration of life,” and said that Caroline would have embraced the limelight.
“She’d have jumped up and down and done cartwheels,” Bresnahan said. “Caroline loved the TV cameras.”
Ernie Found has not yet read Bresnahan’s book, and was leery about viewing the movie.
“My family had reservations about Hollywood entering our hearts,” said Found, 65 and recently retired as a orthopedic surgeon at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Upon seeing it, Found said, “I have feelings of joyous relief. It’s a movie, not a documentary, so the events aren’t completely as they happened.
“It’s impossible to squeeze four months into an hour and 39 minutes.”
More than 6 1/2 years have passed since Found lost his daughter and his wife in a two-week period; Ellyn Found died of pancreatic cancer later in August 2011. He spends much of his time now on his farm, playing piano, doing magic tricks and working in his barn and his orchard.
“Time has not healed my hurt,” he said, “but it has softened it a little.”
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