How ‘MVP’ sheds light on the connections between military veterans and retired athletes

Nate Boyer and Jay Glazer have developed the type of relationship where a friend can come home to the surprise of having the other doing a full-fledged movie production in their home without their knowledge.

“I walked into my house one day…He broke into my house and started filming. It was basically transformed. There was a whole bunch of people in there,” Glazer said. “It wasn’t like a small thing, [it was] a whole movie set.”

The Fox Sports National Football League reporter-analyst-insider had approved the shooting, but he just wasn’t sure exactly when it would happen. The location is critical for the film, titled “MVP,” as it was there that Glazer and Boyer began forming the idea for the unique outreach program of the same name.

“Beyond him reluctantly opening his house – he did say we could do it – you see Unbreakable Performance Center, Jay’s gym, in the movie,” says Boyer, a former Seattle Green Beret and Seahawk who was also in the spotlight for his friendship with the quarterback. Colin Kaepernick Boyer advised him to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

“The reason we filmed [at the gym] — partly because Jay is generous and let us film there — but also because that’s where MVP became MVP.”

In this case, MVP is referring to Merging Vets & Players, an organization that brings together military veterans and former athletes to not only train in the gym, but also to talk about shared mindsets, experiences, and issues that might result from reassimilation – as Glazer says. — a “less chaotic” life.

MVP was founded in 2015 by Glazer and Boyer, and the film “MVP”, directed by and starring Boyer, hopes to draw attention to the struggles the two groups face and the awareness presented by the organization.

“MVP,” the film is inspired by real events, is produced by Sylvester Stallone and co-stars Glazer, Mo McRae, Talia Jackson, Christina Ochoa and Dina Shihabi. It tells the story of a retired athlete (McRae) struggling with his new non-athletic lifestyle who comes across a homeless ex-soldier (Boyer) suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They bond on common mentalities and decide to bring their worlds together.

In addition to tonight’s screening in 35 premier markets, the GNC Live Well Foundation will be sponsoring a film screening tour featuring Boyer as well as local veterans and athletes that will run throughout the 2022-23 season of the NFL. Despite the popularity of streaming platforms, which are a possibility in the future, Boyer insisted the film be released theatrically because “it just hits different” when you watch it in a shared space.

We caught up with Boyer and a busy Glazer (it was the first week of the NFL season) before the pic’s release to chat about the people portrayed in the film, the movie newbie movie experience, and of the true purpose of the film.

How was the filming process for you two?

Jay Glazer: It’s a question from Nate.

Nat Boyer: I don’t know what I’m doing. If you have good people around you that you trust and build a badass team, then people will understand. That’s how it happened. It was super collaborative. We didn’t have any money, but it doesn’t look like it, because everyone just joined because of the MVP mission. They know what he does and who he talks to and who he helps, so that was the biggest part.

I studied it as much as I could, and produced some things. Our [cinematographer], Logan Fulton, was the only department head who was not a veteran. He’s amazing, and he’s the one who recognized it. All the others were veterans [or former athletes].

I think often things get more complicated than they should be… When you have a good story and people care about it, you’ll understand. Mission, content and people will speak louder than anything you can write on paper anyway. That’s how it happened.

Jay, did you give Nate any advice on being on camera?

Glazier: I’m the worst guy to ask for acting advice. I did five seasons on “Ballers”, and I didn’t follow a single script.

Boyer: But you are in every season, my brother. They wouldn’t have called you for season 2.

Glazier: I did a scene in “Bones” and I played an army veteran. I arrived and I didn’t know a single line of mine. Just out of the cuff. It was Week 1 of the NFL season. I didn’t have time to read a script. In any event. Nate is a real actor. I usually play myself. Did that well.

Boyer: He gave me a ton of tips and advice. Honestly, just watching it is how I’m trained to be on camera. Especially with any type of hosting, and its confidence… Trying to squeeze out a lot of information in a short time is a scary skill and it does it better than anyone.

Your co-star Mo McRae also helped produce.

Boyer: Mo McRae. This guy has been so close to so many great things. He deserves all the accolades he gets, and hopefully that leads to bigger and better things. Not only is he talented, but he works very hard and he cares. He showed up on set every day, even if he wasn’t working. Couldn’t have done it without Mo. Definitely.

There are some big names in and around the movie. How did they come to be involved?

Glazier: Wiz Khalifa trains with me at Unbreakable. All those other celebrities fighting — Wiz can fight. Anyway, he made a song for us. I mean, of course he did, because he’s part of the family.

Boyer: He has military members in his family and has supported MVP from the start. He saw us filming stuff and said, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you.” I said, “Well, you can give me a song.” And he said, “I got you.” …He delivered it on Veterans Day [very shortly after].

Glazier: Like, a day later.

Boyer: In terms of achieving some of the [people supporting the movie], they are all close friends of Jay. Randy Couture, Tony González, Jarrod Bunch. Obviously, [Michael] Strahan and Howie [Long]. When Jay and Tony and Randy tell these stories [onscreen in the movie]it’s their stories – it’s not scripted.

Glazier: Oh yeah. I forgot part of it.

How does the film relate to the goal of MVP, the organization?

Glazier: The whole point of the movie is really to get an eye on the MVP’s mission, to get exposure, and to let people know that it’s okay to be vulnerable together. You get a group of tough guys together in a room, it’s OK to open up and lean into each other. It’s not about me. It’s not about Nate. More than anything, this movie… The only purpose of doing this is to help as many people as possible. Just try other ways.

Boyer: Part of that is raising awareness for the organization, but part of that was that we want the world to try to relate to people who are going through hard times with a transition like this. Pain is pain. To say that just because you served in the military and went to war your trauma is greater than anyone else’s is not fair.

There’s a problem with that in our world today where people don’t recognize or acknowledge the pain that someone else is going through because they think it’s less or different or not as precious. I think it’s really unfair and harsh. You don’t know what someone has been through and dealt with on their journey. We all have our s—.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Robert M. Larson