Facing Nolan Director on Documenting ‘Mythical’ Pitcher Nolan Ryan
By Margeaux Sippell • August 02, 2022
Facing Nolan director Bradley Jackson grew up idolizing pitcher Nolan Ryan, a Major League Baseball legend whom Jackson personally considers the best pitcher of all time. Jackson says it was a dream come true to get to make a documentary about the man he calls a “mythical figure.”
“If you’re either in baseball or from Texas, you want to talk about Nolan, because there’s just something so… I don’t know if legendary or epic, maybe epic is the right word about him, about his career,” Jackson said on a recent episode of the Factual America podcast.
“Because not only was he so dominant on the mound, but he was also such a kind of a mythical figure. A lot of people were like, Wait, what does he do in the offseason? Oh, he owns and runs a cattle ranch? Wait, wouldn’t he just be relaxing, you know, in Hawaii on the beach collecting his millions? No, he, like, ran a fully operational cattle ranch; was on horses. The day that the season ended, he’s on a horse. He’s riding around the Texas prairie. So, he’s kind of a newfangled cowboy, in a sense. I think that added to the myth and the legend as well.”
In addition to Nolan himself, Jackson also got to interview several other baseball superstars while making Facing Nolan — and a former American president.
“It was one of those dreams come true to get to sit down with Pete Rose, George Brett, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Dave Winfield, Roger Clemens, you know, Rod Carew — all Hall of Famers, or should be Hall of Famers, and then, you know, toss in a former sitting President, George W. Bush, into the mix,” he said.
Part of making Facing Nolan was also setting the record straight about some of the myths that cropped up around such a legendary player.
“Especially if you’re from Texas, like I am, you hear a lot of legends and myths about him. And so, like, the old myth that I heard as a kid was he developed his 100-mile-an-hour fastball by throwing newspapers when he was a kid; you just throw newspapers, on a paper route,” Jackson said. “I asked him about that thinking he would say, ‘Yeah, that’s how I got it.’ ‘No, I threw with my left hand, and I’m a right-handed pitcher, you have to drive so you throw out the window with your left hand.’ And I was, like, ‘Well, then why did people [say that]? So it’s just, it’s subverting the legend, subverting the myth, because he is a real person. He’s not [Paul] Bunyan, you know, he’s not Davy Crockett.”
Facing Nolan is now available to rent on VOD and on demand. Here are the time stamps from the Factual America interview:
00:00 – The trailer for Facing Nolan.
04:49 – A synopsis of what the documentary is about.
06:06 – Why so many teams undervalued Nolan Ryan.
09:00 – Why some people don’t like his pitching.
11:00 – How the baseball legends responded to being asked to be on the film.
13:20 – What it was like being a batter against Nolan Ryan.
15:46 – How Bradley Jackson got involved with the making of the film.
18:27 – What Nolan thinks about pitching today.
21:54 – The effect his wife had on his career.
23:29 – What it’s like making a film with a baseball legend.
27:43 – How Nolan responds to the incident with Robin Ventura.
32:30 – What he means as a sports figure for the state of Texas.
34:15 – How Bradley Jackson got an interview with George Bush.
37:46 – The next project he is working on.
Factual America uses documentary filmmaking to examine the American experience as well as universal topics that affect all Americans. Guests include Academy Award, Emmy, and Grammy-winning filmmakers and producers, their subjects, as well as experts on the American experience. We discuss true crime, music, burning social and political topics, history and arts with the creators of the latest and upcoming documentary films in theatres and on the most popular digital platforms. This podcast is produced by Alamo Pictures, a London- and Austin-based production company that makes documentaries about the US from a European perspective for international audiences.
Main Image: An image from Facing Nolan courtesy of Factual America
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