Ask any sports film enthusiast to name the best golf movie ever made, and it’s likely they will list the 1996 romantic comedy Tin Cup somewhere in their top three. In the film, Cheech Marin stars as the friend and caddie to Kevin Costner’s character, a washed-up golf pro.
Twenty-seven years later, Marin is back on the golf course on the big screen. Set in 1955, The Long Game stars Marin as Pollo, a veteran groundskeeper at a golf course in Del Rio, Texas, who provides a group of Mexican American high school kids with the golf equipment they need after they form their own golf team.
Based on the 2012 book Mustang Miracle by Humberto G. Garcia, the film, which made its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival last week, follows the true story of five Latino caddies who set out to compete for a championship against the rich, white golf teams in the state.
Not only did Marin say yes to the movie because “it looked like a fun role to play for three days,” he liked the inspirational message behind the film and thought it was important to spotlight the true-life story of the young men.
“I loved that the movie is set in the mid-50s and that we’re talking about the disadvantages of being a Chicano or Mexican in those days,” Marin, 76, told Remezcla during a recent interview. “Anything that has to do with golf always brings me back to Tin Cup, but I really do love this movie.”
Fortunately for Marin, growing up in Los Angeles didn’t include the same kind of racial discrimination as the young men experience in The Long Game. He thinks the reason he was never exposed to it is because L.A. is much bigger than Del Rio, so it would be more “glaring” if it happened in a small town than in a major city.
“It all depends on who controls the levers of power there, too,” Marin said.
Even during his time in Hollywood, Marin can’t point to a moment in his career when he felt discriminated against. He believes it’s because most studio insiders didn’t really consider the movies he was making early in his career, like the Cheech and Chong flicks in the late 1970s and 80s, part of the Hollywood machine.
“Actors are used to hearing ‘no’ no matter who you are,” he said. “We had to learn how to face rejection. But we made our own movies. We weren’t in competition with anyone because we were considered outsiders. We were in our own zone, which was an interesting place to be.”
It’s a bit different these days for Marin. When you’re playing Jennifer Lopez’s father (Shotgun Wedding), Robert De Niro’s friend (The War with Grandpa) or Woody Harrelson’s facilities manager (Champions), it’s impossible to say you’re on the outside of anything. So, what about a superhero movie aka the next big thing that actors are taking part in? Would Marin be interested if Marvel came calling?
“I’d do it, yeah,” Cheech Marin said. “I don’t know what kind of role I could play. Maybe Armadillo Man.”
Check back for updates when The Long Game, starring Cheech Marin, will premiere at theaters or on a streaming service or VOD.