The last time he was nominated for an Oscar, D.C. native Sean Fine wore his grandfather Nate’s Super Bowl XVII ring. As he got ready for the awards show this year, he already knew he would wear cufflinks with his kids’ pictures as a good-luck charm. At the last minute, as he was getting dressed, he pulled out two pairs of RGIII’s Adidas socks he bought around Christmas — when he got the quarterback’s socks for his whole family.
“I’ve got to wear these,” he told his wife and co-director Andrea, choosing the burgundy and gold pair over the greens for obvious reasons.
“RGIII is a hero to my kids,” explained Fine, whose grandfather was famed Skins photographer Nate Fine. “When I was their age, John Riggins and Darrell Green and those other players were heroes to me. I’m just so glad they have a hero now. So I knew they’d get a kick out of it, and that’s why I wanted to wear them.”
As it turned out, the socks also appealed to Inocente, the formerly homeless teenage artist who was the subject of the Fines’ Oscar-winning documentary short. She first spied them during the limo ride to the awards show.
“What are those? I love this!” she said, as they headed toward the Dolby Theatre.
“She’s all about statements and color and not being the same as everyone,” Fine said. “I kind of felt it was appropriate, No Pressure No Diamonds, a diamond in the rough, walking on the red carpet with this girl who had been homeless.”
So his kids — who are 5 and 8 — and the teenaged star of his movie clearly approved. But Fine didn’t expect that the socks would create headlines all over the country. After he won his first Oscar and tweeted a picture of the socks at RGIII, the story quickly made Huffington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, Larry Brown Sports, Black Sports Online, Counter Kicks, CSN Washington, The Victory Formation, The Post Game, NBC Washington and at least three areas of this newspaper.
So I had to ask Fine whether he was at all disappointed that his Oscar-winning moment was, in some places at least, dominated by sports hosiery talk.
“No no no,” he laughed on Tuesday, not long after arriving back in D.C. “Everyone who talks about the socks gets to the film eventually. It seems like it’s resonating with sports fans, and if sports fans go see a documentary about a homeless girl, that’s awesome. And for Washington, many people don’t see us as a film community. If people here are psyched about an Oscar because of that, that’s cool. That’s a good thing.”
Fine, of course, grew up around the Skins thanks to his grandfather. He attended virtually every home game from the ages of 4 to 16, worked as a photographer for the team for several years in the late ’90s, and still has vivid memories of the Super Bowl parades down Pennsylvania Avenue, which he compared to the crowds at Obama’s inaugurations.
“I know it’s not the same, but when I was a kid at those parades, it felt like there were that many people,” he told me. “Everybody went to the games on Sunday, everybody got along and everybody loved this team and what this team did for the city.”
Which is why the 39-year old Fine, like many Washingtonians of his age, is quick to compare RGIII to the stars of the ’80s.
“He galvanized our team; he brought a spirit back to Washington sports that hasn’t been here in awhile,” the filmmaker said. “To me personally — this is what’s very important to me — I have someone that I can watch with my children, who they can look up to, who they can be inspired by. He says what he’s gonna do, and he does it. He plays with heart and passion. He IS like those old guys. He doesn’t talk a lot, but his performance [reflects] what he says he’s going to do — like Darrell Green, like Art Monk. You can learn a lot from that. To watch these things with my kids, it just brings me back to when I was a fan, and it’s fun to watch them get exited about him.”
Fine has a variety of new projects in the works; one documentary, Life According to Sam, just premiered at Sundance and will be on HBO in the fall. In addition to his time with the Skins, he’s done some work in sports, co-directing a documentary about skier Lindsey Vonn, and executive producing a film on Amar’e Stoudemire. And so, when he talks about his hopes of doing an RGIII movie, it’s not some flighty pipe dream.
“We do films on characters, on amazing characters,” Fine told me. “We want to do a film on him, on who he is, on what he’s about. Not a marketing-type thing, but a real documentary, where you get to know him, get to know why he does what he does, why he’s an athlete, what makes him great. He’s really good at what he does, and we’re really good at what we do; it seems like a good match….If he wants to do it, he does; if he doesn’t, it’s understandable. I think if we could just talk to him, he’d like what we’re about.”