Forever Strong is a sports film directed by Ryan Little and written by David Pliler and released on September 26, 2008. The film stars Sean Faris, Gary Cole, Neal McDonough, Sean Astin, Penn Badgley and Arielle Kebbel. The film is about a troubled rugby union player who must play against the team his father coaches at the national championships. Forever Strong is based on a compilation of individual true stories.


Rick Penning (Sean Faris) is a high school rugby player who is the captain of his team in which all of the players only improve via drugs and alcohol. After losing the championship to the Highland Rugby Team, who is also the team's rival, Rick drinks and drives, resulting in a crash that seriously injures his girlfriend, Tammy. Thus, he loses his position on the team and is sentenced to a boys' Juvenile Detention Center in Salt Lake City. Feeling bad for him, the center's manager, Marcus (Sean Astin) puts him on the Highland rugby team (much to his chagrin), coached by Larry Gelwix (Gary Cole). He suddenly becomes influenced by brotherhood and manages to cope with his homesickness and death of his first true friend, Kurt (Michael J. Pagan). Soon he finds himself again in the national championshipsâ€"against his old team, who is coached by his distanced father, Richard Penning (Neal McDonough) and which has labeled him a renegade. Highland wins the tournament again, and Rick reconciles with Richard.


  • Gary Cole as Coach Larry Gelwix
  • Sean Astin as Marcus Tate
  • Neal McDonough as Coach Richard Penning
  • Sean Faris as Richard 'Rick' Seymour Penning, Jr.
  • Penn Badgley as Lars
  • Michael J. Pagan as Kurt Addison
  • Nathan West as Quentin 'Q' Owens
  • Max Kasch as Griggs
  • Julie Warner as Natalie Penning
  • Arielle Kebbel as Emily Owens
  • Tyler Kain as Tammy
  • Larry Bagby as Coach Cal


The movie was filmed in Salt Lake City beginning in July 2006 at three local high schools. Sean Faris ran six miles twice a day to get in shape for the film. During filming, Faris sprained his ankle, but had the ankle taped, and continued filming. Several All-American rugby players, predominantly from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, played in the film. Some Highland Rugby alumni and current players also played roles in the film.

The name of the film is based on a phrase that Gelwix often shares with his team members, "kia kaha" which in the Maori language means Stay strong. The longer version: "Be forever strong on the field, so that you will be forever strong off the field." The players call them "Gelwixism".

Forever Strong is based on an amalgam of true stories about the Highland Rugby high school team. The character Rick Penning is based on a real member of the rugby team who played in Flagstaff, Arizona and was sent to a group home in Salt Lake City. The story attracted the production company Go Films. "Forever Strong" was the first sports themed film Go Films had made. Producer Adam Abel and Director Ryan Little were attracted to the story because of Highland Rugby's tradition of winning both on and off the field. The film name "Forever Strong" is taken from the team motto of the Highland High School rugby team. "Forever Strong" was released in fall 2008 and distributed by Crane Movie Co.


  1. "Ready Or Not" - Manbreak
  2. "Pimpin Hard" - B.A.S.K.O.
  3. "Nothing Less" - The Travezty
  4. "Mele Kalikimaka" - Mugsy
  5. "Corporate Logic" - Stereoliza
  6. "Don't Make Me Dance" - Joshua Creek
  7. "The Deal" - Clay Duncan & Allday
  8. "Forever Strong" - Sink To See

Maori culture

Forever Strong contains use of the haka (traditional Maori dance and song) "Ka Mate". The iwi (tribal grouping) Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha is credited with composing this particular haka. The film contains a scene in which one player translates the lyrics of "Ka Mate" for his teammate.

Critical reception

As of October 10, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 29% of critics rated the film positively based on 14 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 37 out of 100 based on 9 reviews â€" indicating generally negative reviews.

However, the public rated the movie much more favorably, according to IMDb, which reported an average score of 7.3/10 from 8,204 users.

See also

Forever Strong
  • List of American films of 2008
  • Sports film


External links

  • Official website
  • Forever Strong at the Internet Movie Database
  • Forever Strong at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Lonesome Highway Productions

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