If you tossed “Steel Magnolias” onto a basketball court and blew a whistle, it would look something like “The Hot Flashes.”
The new comedy, written by San Francisco screenwriter Brad Hennig, opens Friday in The City.
But the film — directed by Susan Seidelman and starring Brooke Shields, Camryn Manheim, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen and Wanda Sykes — may surprise audiences with its heartwarming undercurrents. In this case, five menopausal women form a basketball team and take on the high school champs, all in an effort to raise money to save a mobile testing center for breast cancer prevention.
“It was really a passion of investments,” Hennig says. “Most of the film’s investors were women of a certain age — the age group of the women in the film. They either had an interest in women’s empowerment or women’s basketball.”
Hennig, 49, grew up in a small town near Abilene, Texas, and played high school basketball. He moved to The City 20 years ago and now lives in Noe Valley. After his mother died of breast cancer, he made annual treks back home to visit her grave.
The idea for “The Hot Flashes” came during one of those visits several years ago.
“I ran across some girls who won the state basketball championship years ago and they never had gotten out of the town,” he recalls. “Their lives had kind of gotten away from them and they were a little bit out of shape. The only time they had won anything was that state championship.
“All those things were on my mind when I got back on the plane. I am a comedy writer, so I somehow combined women’s basketball with glory days, and menopause and breast cancer into one story. It just came to me.”
As for the cast, Hennig was more than impressed with their skills on the court.
“It’s not easy sometimes for a woman in her late 40s to play basketball. Some of the actresses had never played before,” Hennig says.
“And it’s not at all like what you’d hear about a group of women on the set — catfights and such,” he says. “They were just really close to each other, really genuine. And that’s what the film is about: pulling together.”
Emmy winner Manheim, who plays Roxie (think hippie rebel) in the film, admits that the project was affirming on a number of fronts.
“It was the perfect storm,” Manheim says. “It had a really great message — taking care of ourselves and being healthy.
“But I love that it was about women embracing their power and taking back their control. And I really love that it was about women letting their freak flag fly — and enjoying life.”