There are several echoes ricocheting back and forth between the cast members of "The Replacements" and the characters they play in the film, particularly in how both came together as a team. For in life, as in art, it was through trial, error -- and training.
Deutch, Sellers and executive producer Jeffrey Chernov--responsible for many of the production's hugely challenging logistics-- enlisted football coordinator Allan Graf and his associate Mark Ellis, the team that most recently completed work on Warner Bros. Pictures' "Any Given Sunday," directed by Oliver Stone. It was the job of Graf and Ellis to recruit core players for the five games to be depicted in the course of the film and integrate them with Keanu Reeves and the rest of the actors portraying the replacements through a three-week training camp.
"We interviewed about 400 players and whittled them down to a team of about
45, every one of whom had played professional football at one level or another, whether it was the NFL, Canadian Football League or arena football," recalls Graf. "Then we had the main cast come
in and camp for three weeks before we started shooting."
"It was obvious that not only Keanu but all of the other actors playing the Sentinels' replacements were going to have to look like professionals in the movie," Chernov says. "Two months before I came on the project, Keanu was already working with a number of people to condition himself and work on his football. We wanted the team to not only to look good, but understand the game and learn how to wear the uniforms and equipment. And because we were planning on starting the film in August on the East Coast, they had to get acclimated to the weather as well.
"So essentially, we put them through a crash course in football, with intense physical training as well as rehearsing plays designed by Allan Graf that would be used in the film's five games. By the time we started shooting, they all knew the plays and were ready to rumble."
Each actor had his own level of athletic proficiency at the start of camp. "Keanu is a real good athlete, and worked long and hard on looking like a real quarterback," notes Graf. "We put him together with T.J. Rubley, a former quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos, and they worked hard throughout filming."
Rubley reflects upon Reeves' development from amateur to someone very closely resembling a professional football player. "Keanu has an athletic background, so he came into this ahead." says Rubley. "He also really loves to study the game and did a ton of research before he even came to camp. We worked about two hours a day in camp, going through individual drills and working on fundamentals. He was already able to
do a lot of things with his body and his feet. All we had to do was to incorporate that into throwing a tbotball."
For some of the actors. training camp was great fun. For others, it was more like a necessary evil. For Faizon Love. the stand up comedian/actor, phys-ed was "playing video games, going to the movies or strolling down Citywalk," Love jokes. "But football camp was real. Coach Graf told us 'You're not gonna be acting football. You're gonna be football.' And what's funny is how we all came together in boot
camp, just like the real team would come together. We all helped each other. We were all sore together. I remember that after the first week, we had an ice pack here, and an ice pack there. Everybody wants this film to look good, so on the field we really worked as a team. As actors, we went through three hell weeks. But when we came out of it, we were The
Welshman Rhys Ifans, like his on-screen character of Nigel Gruff, had enjoyed some experience on the soccer field back home and was completely ignorant of American foot
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