Above: Caleb Castille plays Tony Nathan in “Woodlawn” now in theaters. (contributed)
Caleb Castille, star of “Woodlawn,” said he was asked recently if he’s still playing football.
After last week’s premiere, he can say, yes. In theaters everywhere.
The youngest son of former University of Alabama football standout Jeremiah Castille portrays Tony Nathan in the independent film that tells of the faith and unity of a Birmingham high school football team in the early years of integration. The movie was released nationally last weekend and ranked ninth in the United States and Canada with estimated ticket sales of $4.1 million.
The $25 million production budget for “Woodlawn” is believed to be the largest for a Christian-themed film since Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.”
While Castille’s first movie role is of a real person, his own life reads like a screenplay. He initially followed his father and brothers, Tim and Simeon, in playing football for the Crimson Tide. Jeremiah Castille and his two older sons went on to play football professionally.
But the younger Briarwood Christian High product turned away from the gridiron following his junior year to pursue acting.
Castille had mostly done modeling for apparel companies before auditioning for the lead role of “Woodlawn.” He didn’t get it but was later given the role of a stunt double.
Three days before production, he learned the lead actor couldn’t play the role and Castille was given an opportunity.
“Three days later, there it was.”
Less than three years into an acting career Castille has landed the starring role in a major motion picture – a goal he accomplished without the years of waiting and casting calls that many aspiring actors endure.
“I describe it as winning a $50 million lottery for the third time,” he said. “It never, never ever, ever, ever, ever happens.”
“Woodlawn” wasn’t Castille’s first acting opportunity but it was the first one he pursued. He turned down other roles that didn’t meet his standards.
“The world needs to see African-American families that have high esteem, high character and stories that shed a positive light on family in general,” he said. “The other opportunities I had didn’t live up to that morally.
“I was raised on faith, so I trusted God and His voice to tell me to pursue acting and to take this journey,” Castille continued. “I just did my best to honor Him and use His Spirit to be my moral compass.”
Castille also did his best to honor Nathan, the first black superstar football player in Birmingham following integration. He wanted to channel the former running back’s gentleness and strength.
“It was more of him being a listener than opening his mouth first,” Castille said. “That’s what I wanted to bring to the table because Tony’s a really quiet guy and I’m not. One of the hardest things to do on camera is nothing.”
The former Crimson Tide walk-on has lived the life of a jet-setter the past several days. He was in Birmingham Thursday for the special premiere of the movie. He appeared at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Friday before heading to Fresno, Calif., Saturday.
“It’s exhausting but it’s so exciting that you run off of fumes and adrenaline,” he said. “But I’m 24 and I’m single. I get to travel the country. I can’t ask for anything else in life. It’s great. I have the best job in the world.”