Grueling workouts, rigorous training, a little blood, a whole lot of sweat and a bucketful of tears — these are the ingredients for a successful football program. Who knew they’d also make for great entertainment?
Following the success of MTV’s “Two-A-Days” and the summer box-office muscle of “Invincible” and “Gridiron Gang” (both of which opened at #1), Hollywood is sending its biggest stars to training camp for a slate of films set in the world of America’s new national pastime.
(Catch the season finale of “Two-A-Days” Thursday (October 12) at 5 p.m. ET on MTV.)
From George Clooney to Jack Black, actors are lining up for big-screen football flicks. A collegiate and professional football star, Terry Crews went the other way — from the National Football League to the Screen Actors Guild — starring in such films as “Friday After Next” and “White Chicks.” While you can take the man out of the game, it seems you can’t take the game out of the man. Crews admitted to loving football movies — well, the good ones, anyway.
” ’Rudy’ comes in big time. I get into the fetal position watching ’Rudy’ — I cry like a baby,” the “Everybody Hates Chris” co-star confessed. ” ’Rudy’ will make you check your manhood at the door. It’s a chick flick for guys.”
A chick-flick football movie? Why not? If you can handle it, so can the sport, which in coming years will be pressed into just about every genre imaginable, from the biopic to the romance to the straight comedy.
“Leatherheads” (The Romance)
Like the minor-league star just good enough to make it to the top of the amateur ranks without actually breaking through, a decade in development limbo doesn’t often signal good things for a project. Enter George Clooney. The Oscar-nominated writer/director and Oscar-winning actor is set to pull triple duty on the long-delayed “Leatherheads.” The film, which at various times has had Jon Favreau, Jonathan Mostow, and Steven Soderbergh attached, is billed as a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of professional football’s origin in the 1920s.
From “Pride of the Yankees” to “Field of Dreams,” studios have made a killing exploiting America’s love for baseball nostalgia. According to Crews, football doesn’t have that luxury.
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It’s that “brute force” that Crews sees as a primary difference between today’s football players and their historical counterparts.
“You would have to really embellish the level at which these guys were playing. Back then they went drinking and then they played the game,” Crews joked. “Today there’s no off-season. … Jim Brown stood out above everybody, but now there have got to be 30, 40 Jim Browns in the NFL.”
Of course the biggest difference, Crews argued, is that back in the 1920s, you didn’t see very many black players.
“The problem with old-timey football movies is that football is so good right now. Remember: There were no black people in old-timey football,” the former Green Bay Packer said. “It’d be real hard to go, ’Wow, this is the game!’ ’cause people would [say], ’Terrell Owens would smoke this fool!’ ”
Variety reports that Clooney, who is busy rewriting the script, expects to start production on the film in the spring.
“The Game Plan” (The Family Film)
Boston quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a superstar at the top of his game and chasing a championship. That is, until he discovers the 7-year-old daughter he never knew he had. Now it’s fewer two-a-days and more youth ballets. Directed by Andy Fickman from a script by Nicole Millard and Kathryn Price, the game plan for “The Game Plan” is an October 2007 release.
The Rock is no stranger to the glories of football — onscreen or off. Last month, his “Gridiron Gang” opened at #1 (read ” ’Gridiron Gang’ Muscles ’The Covenant’ Out Of Box Office’s Top Spot” and get an up-close look at the flick by watching “Your Movie Show: Gridiron Gang”), and as a player, the Rock was an integral part of the 1991 National Champion Miami Hurricanes’ defense.
While rare, Johnson’s rise from playing on Saturdays to opening on Fridays isn’t unique. Stars such as Burt Reynolds, Mark Harmon and Richard Roundtree went from the goal line to the red carpet. Terry Crews thinks that’s no coincidence.
“You have to really come with a high level of emotion all the time. You can’t play football with no emotion — it’s practically impossible,” he said. “And acting is all about reaching in and tapping into those emotions. Here you have all these different positions, and you have all these types of guys who can tap into emotion on the field, so you’re just bound to have some great actors come out of the world of football.”
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“In College Football, Big Paydays for Humiliation” (The Light Comedy)
Scandals, player rap sheets, and financial shenanigans can’t stop the college football juggernaut — can Jack Black? The comedic superstar recently announced he’ll produce “Big Paydays,” a lighthearted take on teams paying large sums of money to play less-qualified opponents, guaranteeing more wins and a bigger slice of the NCAA pie. The film, which currently has no screenwriter, is based on a recent New York Times article by Pete Thamel.
While not the prototypical athlete, Black could easily find a place on the football field, a sport Crews said anybody can play.
“Every kind of guy can play it,” Crews said. “You got the small guy, the old soccer player over there — he can be a kicker. Then you got the really big fat guy over there — that’s your offensive lineman. Then you’ve got the big, athletic dude — that’s our defensive lineman. The smaller guy? He’s our quarterback. For every man, there is a position on the football field you can really place yourself into.”
“Untitled Bronko Nagurski Project” (The Biopic)
“Everything you pretty much can do [with football in film] has been touched on, but I think there is a deeper level,” Crews said. “There’s a football ’Rocky’ in there somewhere.”
Mr. Crews, meet Mr. Nagurski — an inaugural member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history. In an era where players were expected to perform on both sides of the ball, Nagurski was a standout at three positions, getting named All-Pro as a running back, defensive lineman and offensive tackle. After retiring from professional football in 1937, Nagurski returned to the Chicago Bears six years later as a replacement player. In the season’s final game against the Washington Redskins, Nagurski scored a touchdown as the Bears won the championship.
Written by “Frida” scribe Clancy Sigal, the film is based on Jim Dent’s novel “Monster of the Midway: Bronko Nagurski, the 1943 Chicago Bears, and the Greatest Comeback Ever.”
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