(Ed. Note: This story originally ran on April 9, 2007. We're re-running it with the debut today of the new George Clooney flick, "Leatherheads.")
If it seemed a little slow around here last week, there was good reason: the Cold, Hard Football Facts crew, a bunch of us anyway, descended like overfed locusts
on Charlotte, N.C. to be on set for the filming of "Leatherheads," the George Clooney movie about fictional 1920s football star Carter Rutherford.
Our own Coach T.J. Troup, one of the nation's top football researchers
, was hired by Clooney (who is producing and will star in the flick) as a technical advisor for the film. Basically, Troup's job is to coach the actors in the film, teaching them the intricacies of 1920s football so that they look and sound like real players of the era.
"They want everything to be authentic," said Troup, who walked the set with a clipboard and playbook. It was filled with 1920s-style plays, each designated with the football terminology of the era.
"My guys are great athletes," said Coach Troup, who was clearly proud of the work he's done with his "team." The actors (most of them former athletes) have clearly developed a lot of respect, too, for Coach Troup over the past several weeks working together.
Troup came to work for us on a part-time basis last year, and has quite a resume. The Tustin, California resident is a former player and coach at the high school and college level and knows more about NFL history than just about any man alive. His research has appeared in many other publications, most of them (unlike CHFF) quite reputable. He's worked frequently with NFL Films, for example, and last year was a member of their committee that rated the Super Bowl champions for the "America's Game" series.
The day we arrived in Charlotte, Coach was already at the old football field they're using for the movie, coaching up his "team" of leather helmet-clad actors. They were filming the very first scene of the movie, which will show a game between Princeton and Penn.
In the movie, Carter Rutherford (played by John Krasinski of "The Office" fame) is a Princeton star loosely based upon Red Grange. After college, he's grabbed by the NFL to give the upstart pro league some legitimacy. But he engenders enmity along the way from grizzled pro players such as Dodge Connelly, played by Clooney. Renee Zellweger is the movie's other big-name star.
The scene was pretty cool. The actors were all decked out in the 1920s football gear of Princeton and Penn, complete with heavy sweaters and really cool, thick leather helmets. The helmets were made for the movie to the specifications of the era. To give them a beat-up look, they were run through a dryer with golf balls to batter them around.
The end of the stadium was a brick wall that gave the arena an old-time feel. But it was all Hollywood: it was a fake facade held up by wood staging behind it. It looked completely authentic, even up close. Only by touching it did you realize the wall was a fake. (We'd like to have more photos of the actual filming, but were not allowed to shoot live action.)
The uniforms were authentic period gear from Princeton and Penn, which cooperated with the producers. The NFL has not been so generous. They won't let the studio use authentic NFL uniforms, or even team names. (Of course, this is the same league that wouldn't let a church in Indiana host a "Super Bowl" party. PR really isn't that important these days to the WMPL, the Worlds Most Powerful League.)
Still, our own Troup promises one thing: the most authentic period football movie ever made.
THE ROAD to CHARLOTTE
CHFF senior writer John Dudley flew into North Carolina the day before the shoot. The Chief Troll, Kerry J. Byrne, and CHFF bon vivant Frankie C. decided to make a road trip out of it and spent the week on the road from Boston to Charlotte and back, with plenty of stops in between at the Marine Corps Museum
in Quantico, Virginia (Frankie, pictured here outside the museum, is an ex-Marine), several Civil War battlefields, including Fredericksburg and Bull Run, James Madison's plantation, Montpelier, and Thomas Jefferson's famous home, Monticello. They also popped into every barbecue joint they could find and spent a day in Washington, D.C. visiting the Vietnam Memorial, Marine Corps Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and other famous landmarks. Some photos from the trip appear below.