January 7, 1994: “Iron Will,” filmed in Duluth, premiers in the Zenith City

On this day in Duluth in 1994, the Disney film Iron Will—much of which was filmed in the Zenith City—premiered at the Lakes 8 Theatre. The Duluth News-Tribune’s Dominic Papatola wrote that “about 300 people braved a two-foot snowfall and hazardous roads” to attend the event, which began with a preview party at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. Viewers included director Charles Haid, star McKenzie Astin, and producer Robert Schwartz, but the bigger names in the cast—such as Kevin Spacey or David Ogden Stiers—did not attend. Many in attendance, such as Duluth historian Sheldon Aubut and the News-Tribune’s Chuck Frederick, had a small role in the film; Frederick played a race official. According to Papatola, the audience “cheered, laughed and even broke into spontaneous applause.” He quoted one woman as saying, “I loved it. How could you not? It starred half of Duluth.” Well, Papatola found a reason to not love it. His review called it “hokey and obvious” and he wrote that the script is “loaded with terrible dialogue, trite and unlikely situations and a hugely improbable ending.” He added that “there’s enough flag-waving patriotism, stoic motherhood, and canine reaction shots to make Norman Rockwell wince.” But he also praised “some terrific action sequences” and called it “an eminently watchable film for the entire family.”