About The Production
Football may be the backdrop of "The Replacements," but for the filmmakers and the stars, the attraction was a great deal more than gridiron and pigskin...
it was the inherent universality of the themes. "It's the story of a group of people who don't really believe in themselves," notes director Howard
Deutch, "which a lot of people can relate to in any walk of life... .including the movie business."
Producer Dylan Sellers struck upon the idea during a bout of the flu. "I was at home, watching some sports program about the 1987 NFL players strike." he recalls. "Something about the incident rang a bell, especially the fact that so many replacement players wound up excelling on the field. I went out and did a lot of research. and started reading stories about people being recruited from their jobs in convenience stores, factories and gas stations to play professional football. I just thought it would be great material for a movie, both dramatically and
"Very simply, it's a classic story." Sellers continues, "like 'The Dirty Dozen,' 'A League of Their Own' or
'Slapshot.' It's the story of a bunch of ordinary guys who never got their chance at greatness on the field, and for a brief moment of time--because of an extraordinary event--get a second opportunity to grab the brass ring. The movie is really about their characters, relationships and interactions much more than it is about football."
As the project came together. it captured the interest of more than one director, among them Howard
Deutch. who had demonstrated, with such films as "Pretty in Pink" and
"Grumpier Old Men," a deft hand at combining comedy with character, with a strong infusion of heart. What made him perfect for producer Sellers was the fact that Deutch is not, in fact, a hardcore football fan.
"One of the things that appealed to me about Howie was that he loved the characters and the human side of the movie," Sellers says. "Howie is like most people. He enjoys football; he watches it. but he's not obsessed with it. He loved the idea of characters from all walks of life getting together for a common purpose, expressed through football, which is what, we hope, makes this movie distinctive and truly funny and touching."
One of the earliest decisions was to detach from the milieu and time period of the 1987 strike. While based on actual events, the film is instead entirely contemporary and fictitious. At
the heart of the screenplay, by Vince McKewin, is the imaginary Washington Sentinels in an equally mythical professional football league. "Disengaging from the shackles of reality freed us to use our imaginations both in terms of backdrop and character," says director Howard
Deutch. "We didn't want to be slaves to hard facts, especially for a comedy."
Of crucial importance to the filmmakers was, of course, finding the right actors to assay the key roles of Shane "Footsteps"
Falco, the "failed" former quarterback who is given a chance for redemption through the circumstances of the players' strike; and Coach Jimmy
McGinty, a man of tough integrity who is lured out of retirement as a replacement for the Sentinels' regular coach. It didn't take Sellers and Deutch very long before they targeted two of America's most celebrated actors: Keanu Reeves and Gene
"Keanu is an actor who is hugely popular because although he's very attractive, he's also an Everyman," says
Deutch. "This seems to be a quality that's very difficult for a lot of actors to achieve. No matter how talented. or technically accomplished, there's still a distance between them and the audience. For me, the centerpiece of this movie is Shane
Falco, a man who is having trouble believing in himself and is looking for something to hang on to. a restoration of the sense that he can make some ki
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