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'A Warrior’s Heart:' From Small Page to the Big Screen

Author-turned-screenwriter Martin Dugard, who works part-time as the cross-country and track coach at JSerra, will debut his first film Thursday at the Regency. He lives in Rancho Santa Margarita.

You’d think a local man whose name is on the cover of a book that has spent eight weeks on the New York Times’ Best Seller list is worthy of a feature on Patch.

(Actually he is. We apologize for not catching it sooner.)

But Martin Dugard, a Rancho Santa Margarita resident and at in San Juan Capistrano, is about to break out of book reviews and catch the eye of a different kind of critic: the film critic.

Dugard’s first scripted movie, A Warrior’s Heart, opens Friday.

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are both planning reviews.

“If people like the movie, that’s great. It’s hard to take criticism. That’s why I don’t look at Amazon.com,” said Dugard, the author/co-author of 14 books.

Moviefone gave the movie its first thumbs up: “A triumphant film the entire family will enjoy.” He’ll rest on that for a bit.

A Warrior’s Heart is a lacrosse (or lax for you fans) film, but like most sports-based films, it’s really about so much more. “It’s essentially about relationships: the father-son relationship, the girlfriend-boyfriend relationship,” Dugard said.

About six years ago, he was watching his oldest of three sons play lacrosse at JSerra, when he and another parent were chatting.

“There ought to be a lacrosse movie.”

So Dugard, who started out writing for magazines such as Runner's World, Sports Illustrated and GQ before morphing to books, got to work. He crafted a story about a boy who loses his father, then loses his way (but gets it back through--you guessed it--lacrosse. Oh, and a Native American military buddy of his dad’s). Paramount Pictures was very interested.

Except Paramount wanted to change the sport to soccer and the main character to a girl.

Dugard decided to go it alone and raise the money himself. The first $2.6 million had him filming by 2008. It took another three years to raise the $1.4 million needed for post-production, he said.

All the extra time proved fortuitous. He was able to sign on Kellan Lutz and Ashley Greene before the Twilight movies skyrocketed. Now the fangirls, some of whom may have never heard of the sport, are, well, being fangirls.

The movie will open in 10 cities chosen as centers for lacrosse mania, including New York, Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver and, yes, San Juan Capistrano (at least for a week). It’s available on-demand in other areas and will come out on DVD in February, Dugard said.

Although the movie had its international debut at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, its U.S. premiere will be at the Regency Theater in San Juan on Thursday night as a fund-raiser for JSerra.

Dugard didn’t make it to France, and initially had plans to be in London this week to research a new book. But then he thought: How often does your first movie debut?

“So I canceled the trip, and here I am,” he said.

A few tickets remain and can be purchased from JSerra. There’ll be a cocktail hour with food and drink available before the show and a question-and-answer session after.

“Everyone says all the time, ‘When’s your movie coming out? When’s your movie coming out?’ And I didn’t have an answer,” Dugard said.

Now, he does.

Oh, and that New York Times bestseller we mentioned earlier? Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly. And Martin Dugard.

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