Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Chance To Be In Clooney's 'Leatherheads'

George Clooney and Renee Zellweger star in "Leatherheads"

Today I had the privilege of doing something that some would consider "once in a lifetime." There was an audition being held about 30 minutes from my home in Greenville, South Carolina to appear in an upcoming Universal Pictures film featuring Academy Award-winning actors George Clooney and Renee Zellweger called "Leatherheads."

Read this Greenville News story about the tryouts that attracted well over 1,000 Caucasian football player to be featured extras in what is sure to be a blockbuster and quite possibly Academy Award-nominated film for Best Picture of the Year in 2007.

"Leatherheads" is a period film that takes place in the early days of the birth of football in America in the 1920's. Clooney is set to direct and star in the film as an aging football player named Jimmy "Dodge" Connelly who attempts to recruit an extremely talented young college football star named Carter Rutherford (to be portrayed by "The Office" star John Krasinski) to play in the newly-developed professional league to provide an incentive for fans to come out and support the football games.

But a female reporter from the Chicago Tribune named Lexie Littleton (Zellweger) gets into a love triangle with Carter and Dodge that goes all the way to the brand new Commissioner of Football to resolve. This will be a historically accurate film featuring men who have the look and moves of the 1920's football players.

That's where the audition I participated in came into play. They were looking for Caucasian males 20-35 years old, between 5'9" and 6'3" tall, and weigh 160-250 pounds to fit the prototype of the 1920's football players (African-Americans were not yet a part of professional football at that time). While playing football in high school or college was not required, the applicant must be considered athletic.

Since I am 34 years old (turning 35 on December 27th), 6'3" tall, 217 pounds, and play organized volleyball, basketball, along with regular workouts at the gym, I felt I was qualified to at least put my name in the pool of applicants. Besides, why would I pass up a chance to possibly appear in a Hollywood film? Duh!

I heard about the tryouts for "Leatherheads" earlier in the week on the television news and then again on the local talk radio station. What an opportunity to be a part of something like this was my first reaction. So, why not give it a shot?

The process was supposed to last from 9AM-3PM, but it was obvious when I arrived right at 9AM that this wasn't going to be a quick in-and-out ordeal. The line of men who were waiting to be a part of this movie wrapped around the inside of the building with at least 750 people and then another 300-400 guys outside the door. And there were people of all shapes and sizes, too.

Some were big and bulky, pushing that 250-pound weight limit to the max while others were weak and puny and probably didn't reach the required height and weight. But they didn't care because this was their chance to be a star. Or so they hoped.

I had a friendly conversation with a 32-year old financial advisor named Brian who said his wife urged him to come to the audition. He said he wanted to enjoy the experience of trying out to be in a movie and that it didn't really matter if he made it or not. We had plenty of time to talk, too, finally leaving the parking lot at around 11AM with a handful of "souvenirs"--the papers we were given as our reward for coming--three hours after standing outside in the cool breeze of the morning.

Once inside the building and into the audition room, we were handed an instruction sheet and application which asked for your name, contact information, Social Security number, clothes sizes including shoes, and athletic experience. Then you stood in line to hand your application to someone who assigned you a number which was handwritten on a white sheet of paper--mine was #371--that you then took to a photographer to snap your full-body photo. Finally, an assistant producer with the film does an on-the-spot informal interview with each applicant asking about their experience playing sports.

All in all, it was quite an adventurous Saturday morning and I am hopeful for a chance to be in "Leatherheads." However, my lack of football experience in high school or college will probably disqualify me from being considered. Yet, considering my chances would have been ZERO if I hadn't lost nearly 200 pounds by livin' la vida low-carb in 2004, I consider today's tryout a BONUS in my life.

Losing weight gave me what very well could be the "once in a lifetime" shot I need to be a part of cinematic history. Okay, perhaps that's a bit hyperbolic, but I think you get the picture. It's all pretty cool if you ask me.

So what happens from here? If I am selected to attend the 1920's-styled football tryouts where they will select 50 men to fill the three teams featured in the film, then I will hear back from the producers via telephone or e-mail by mid-January. Those tryouts will then be followed by football camp/rehearsals for the shooting of the film, with the actual filming to take place in mid-February.

The movie is set to be shot almost entirely in North and South Carolina. My hometown of Spartanburg, SC is located near the border of these two states, so I'd be able to travel to the filming locations quite easily. Even if it is unlikely that I'll ever make it that far, a man can dream, can't he? I've got just as good a chance as the rest of those fellas do!

In the likely event that I am not chosen to be one of the football extras in the film, I certainly will look into other background supporting parts in the film which will be needed. This is something I'll be able to look back on and show my kids and grandkids someday. If it happens, GREAT, if not, GREAT! At least I can say I tried.

Anybody else have an experience trying out for a Hollywood movie? Did you make it into the final cut of the film? Feel free to share your story.

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Blogger Wanda said...

Well Jimmy, don’t forget your friends when you make it and are famous!!
Just let me know when you need an assistant for a few weeks and you can fly me down to help you out!!!!
Congrats Jimmy and weather you make it or not, we’re happy that opportunities are knocking and you are reaching for them.


12/17/2006 12:03 AM  
Blogger mrfritznyc said...

I was in Chicago a few years ago, along with a co-worker, and whilst in route to the local office from our hotel, we managed to stumble onto the set of the Oliver North film "Natural Born Killers." We found ourselves standing amoung a group of people by a courthouse who were supposed to be protestors. Nobody ran us off, so we joined them for few takes - car pulls up, some actors that I sort of recognize get out of the car, we protest... repeat...
as my friend commented when we got bored and continued to our office: "That was some of our best work!"
that scene made it into the movie, but I think it went by so fast, plus they used a long shot, you couldnt make out anyone.... not to mention that the movie was horrible! I fired my agent after that!

12/18/2006 12:41 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

GREAT STORY, IB! Actually, I had a brush with being in a movie before back in 1991 when I was working as a runner at a major Memphis law firm called McDonnell Boyd. In fact, most people believe John Grisham loosely based his novel "The Firm" on the firm I worked for. 8-O

To further this image, they shot the major office scenes of "The Firm" which starred Tom Cruise in the same building McDonnell Boyd was located. They filmed on floors 5-7 and the firm I worked for was on 10-12.

Two stories about that experience:

1. I was walking to the courthouse to file some briefs for the attorneys and the entire downtown of Memphis was a movie set. So it was not uncommon to see film crews and buffet lines of food (man, these people EAT!). I recall a producer telling me, "Don't look at the cameras, just keep walking straight." I never even looked at the person who gave the instructions, but it was in the scene where the guy with the white hair was running through downtown. My scene didn't make it in the final cut, but it was thrilling to be a part of it.

2. Imagine my surprise when I go into work at 8AM one morning during the filming and look who is on the elevator with two very large men standing next to him--TOM CRUISE! The man is a lot shorter than people realize and he's rather puny. But he didn't need muscles with the two behemouth monsters he had as bodyguards. I remember saying, "What's up?" to him and he coyishly nodded back. Cruise was probably the biggest Hollywood movie star at the time before he went nutso bouncing on Oprah's couch, so it was a surreal moment for me.

Anyone else have a story to tell?

12/18/2006 2:02 PM  

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