Most subjects of biopics never get to see someone else’s interpretation of their most critical and life-shaping moments. Creative license plays a part, as does the research put in and the way others recount the tale. Also, the person whom the movie is about tends to no longer be alive.
Nick Newell need not worry about that. He’s 35 and living a healthy and comfortable life in Connecticut, tending to his wife, Danielle, and their two young sons, Wyatt and Brady, his business, Fighting Arts Academy CT, and other projects involving mixed martial arts and easing the lives of those who, like him, are "limb different."
"I still have a couple years left in me," said Newell, a professional MMA fighter who was born with congenital amputation of his lower left arm. "So it's good to see it, especially while I'm only 35 years old."
"Notorious Nick" chronicles his inspiring story, first as a younger kid getting into wrestling in high school and goes through his winning the XFC lightweight title in 2012. The Lionsgate movie opens its limited theatrical release on Friday and also will be available digitally and on demand. In the New York City area, Cinema Village on East 12th Street is the closest theater showing it. The DVD release is scheduled for Aug. 17.
"It's going to be good for kids out there that haven't seen anyone like them to kind of see a guy out there doing his thing," Newell said. "And I know everyone faces their own adversity and has their own trials and tribulations that they face in their life, so I feel like it's a movie that everyone can relate to."
In the movie, Newell is played by Cody Christian, known for his roles in "Teen Wolf" and "Pretty Little Liars" and can be currently seen in "All American" on the CW Network. The movie also stars Elisabeth Rohm, Barry Livingston and Kevin Pollak. Newell said the movie also serves as a "good tribute" to his friend, Abi Mestre (played by Cameron James Matthews), who died in a motorcycle accident in 2011.
The movie builds up to his lightweight title fight at XFC 21 on Dec. 7, 2012. That was the ninth pro fight for Newell, who began his career 11-0 before facing future UFC interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje in World Series of Fighting in 2014. Newell (16-4) is under contract with Bellator, where he fought most recently in June.
Newell said he was never on set during filming and had little to do with the making of the film beyond sharing his story with producers seven years ago. He recently watched the final cut of the film by himself. He was happy the way his story was portrayed on screen, even if some creative liberties were taken to build up the story arc of conflict and good overcoming bad.
"Not everyone I fought was like, ‘You don't deserve a chance’ and stuff like that," Newell said. "I fought a couple of really nice guys, actually. Especially the guy that I fought for the title at the end. In real life, his name was Eric Reynolds. In the movie, he's Rich Reynolds. In real life, he was a nice guy. In the movie, he’s kind of a jerk because they have a movie to make, so he's like, ‘You don't deserve a chance.’ In real life, he was like, ‘Hey, man, I think you're a great fighter, it would be an honor to fight you.’ Certain things they add in or switch around, but I feel like they did my life justice."