How did a former dentist from Madison find himself driving around Scotland, trying to get a movie made?
For Jim Kreutzer, the road from dentist to movie producer has not been a straight one. But it has been a satisfying one.
“I’ve been given a gift of telling stories and picking up stories,” Kreutzer said. “I’m very happy living my dream. I worked really hard to get to this point.”
Kreutzer is the executive producer of “Tommy’s Honour,” a new film about a Scottish golfing legend that opens nationwide on Friday, including in Madison at Marcus Point Cinemas. The film, directed by Jason Connery and starring Peter Mullan, Jack Lowden and Sam Neill, won the BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Picture last year.
Kreutzer fondly remembers his time in Madison in the late 1970s. He was just out of school and had joined a group dental practice, living with his wife in a townhouse near West Towne Mall (not far from where “Tommy’s Honour” will screen at Point).
Seeking to start his own practice, Kreutzer and his family moved to Kenosha in 1981. As his practice grew, he began dabbling in investing in movies, including the Jeremy Piven romantic comedy “Just Write” and a low-budget horror movie shot in Wisconsin called “Fever Lake.”
Eventually, Kreutzer thought he had learned enough movies to go from investing in them to producing them. In 2012, he and a friend took a golfing vacation in Scotland, and played the historic St. Andrews course. While there, he picked up a book about Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, father and pioneers in golfing.
Kreutzer thought their story would make a great movie, and bought the rights to the book. From there, it was a matter of this former dentist from Wisconsin finding people in Scotland who would believe in the project as much as he did.
“For a while there it was just me out there, driving around in the weather, asking myself ‘What the heck am I doing out there?’ he said. “I don’t think I have a huge amount of talent in cinematography or editing. I think I have the ability to see a project for what it is, and I have the ability to match it with someone who would work well with the project.”
Kreutzer eventually cold-called Connery, son of the legendary actor Sean Connery, who warmed to the idea. The two spent the next two years working on the screenplay, raising money and hiring people to make the movie with them.
Both saw “Tommy’s Honour” not as a golf movie, but a story about fathers and sons in changing times. The film is set in the 1860s, when golfers are treated about the same as race horses; the wealthy bet on their games, and the players themselves see little of the winnings. Old Tom (Mullan) is the groundskeeper and golf pro at St. Andrews and is used to this arrangement, but Young Tom (Lowden) chafes and fights to get more of his winnings, causing friction between the two.
"There’s a saying, ‘Every new idea starts as a blasphemy,’” Connery said. “To old Tom, some of the things that Tommy are saying and doing are crazy.”
Kreutzer remembers a phone call the two had with actor Bill Paxton, who died last month. Paxton had also directed a movie about golf called “The Greatest Game Every Played.”
“He said to us, ‘Listen, you guys, when you’re in the editing room, if you’re going to cut some scenes, cut the golf scenes. The audience doesn’t want to see golf balls in the air. They want to see the story behind the golf.”
Connery took that to heart. He said that whenever there’s a golf match in the movie, who actually wins or loses the game is secondary.
“What I decided to do was never make it the most dramatic element of the story,” Connery said. “There was always something else going on when there was a golf match.”
As opposed to the hushed, manicured world of modern golf, “Tommy’s Honour” presents golf as a more rough-and-tumble world, with the golfers crowded by onlookers who yell, drink and even fight during matches.
“I want it to feel viscerally like these guys are there drinking and laughing and shouting,” Connery said. “These guys had no sense of their own legacy. They loved what they did and were living very much in their moment.”
In making a movie about a father and a son, it's inevitable that Connery gets asked whether his own relationship with his famous father is part of the film.
“It can’t help but be a personal journey,” he said. “Certainly when he (Sean Connery) watched it he was very complimentary, and very moved by it.”
Kreutzer is now making another movie in Scotland as well as a television series, and has other projects in the works. He hopes that “Tommy’s Honour” does as well in the United States as it has in Scotland and England, but feels that it’s already a success story because of how well it turned out.
“If you’ve ever learned something about your dad on a golf course, or vice versa, then this movie is for you,” he said.