Tag (2018): Is the Movie Based on Real Friends?

‘Tag’ is a comedy film that revolves around a group of childhood friends — Jerry, Callahan, Randy, Sable, and Hoagie — who have been playing the same game of tag since they were kids, going into 30 years now. In all this time, Jerry has never been “it,” but when he decides to retire from the game after his wedding, the others decide to do whatever it takes to beat him at the game.

Directed by Jeff Tomsic, the 2018 film features the talents of Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress. With such a fun premise, it is easy for anybody to imagine themselves in a similar situation as the group of lifelong friends in ‘Tag.’ But it also makes one wonder if a true friendship like this exists somewhere in real. If you feel the inkling of just such a question in your mind, then we have the answer for you.

Tag is an Original Story

No, ‘Tag’ is not a true story. The screenplay, however, written by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen, is based on the game of tag between 10 Spokane-born men, all of whom have been friends since prep school. Their story was brought to the spotlight by a Wall Street Journal report in January 2013, a month after which the rights to their story were bought by Todd Garner, the head of Broken Road Productions, which made the film alongside New Line Cinema.

At the time of the publication of the Wall Street Journal report, the group of childhood friends had been playing the same game of tag for 23 years. They had established the rules as children, penned down in a contract by Patrick J. Schultheis, that stated that the game will be played for the entire month of February every year, and whoever is “it” at the end of the month will start the game the next year.

Both the film and the real-life “tag brothers” are vastly different from each other. The most prominent of these differences is the fact that ‘Tag’ brings down the number of participants in the game from ten to five. None of the characters in the film have real-life counterparts either and were created with their personalities and all were solely for the film. The only thing that the film has in common with the actual game is the context and the rules, as well as the city of Spokane as the story’s setting.

Jeremy Renner, who takes on the role of Jerry Pierce, attributes the dynamic between the characters and the actors themselves to the fact that ‘Tag’ is based on real people. “Because it’s [the film] anchored in a true story and all these true events, I think we’ve done really extreme things in this film, but I think they [the tag brothers] have done even more extreme things in real life. So knowing that…that’s the only reason I think any of us could have really done it [be in the film],” the actor told FilmIsNow. “It does give it weight, it does give it, you know, proper character development arcs and things like that.”

Actor Jon Hamm revealed in an interview with ScreenRant that he knew about the Tag brothers and their story from the Wall Street Journal and was really excited to be in the film. He further went on to say that the idea of the game itself is a great way to stay connected. “…what a great way to kind of maintain that kind of human connection and friendship and connection to your youth, and your past, and your shared history and all that great stuff,” said the actor.

Though not a true story, the real-life events that inspired the making of ‘Tag’ are nothing short of extraordinary. A fun movie about a group of lifelong friends playing a game, ‘Tag’ is at its core a look into what can happen when people persevere through everything that happens in life in a bid to stay connected with the ones they love and cherish.

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