Making It Real
For the stars and players of "The Replacements," the glorious nine-and-a-half minutes on the field was the product of week after painstaking week of hard play merged with serious acting (often with the intent of being funny) in all conditions and circumstances. The Baltimore weather
during the early August through late October shoot often underwent unexpected and radical changes, from sizzling temperatures with drenching humidity, a visit from Hurricane Floyd in mid- September which sent the company scurrying into the netherworld of PSINet Stadium to shoot "cover" scenes in the locker room set, to a welcome autumnal chill. It was incumbent upon football coordinator/second unit director Allan Graf and his associate. Mark Ellis, to meticulously choreograph the plays not only for the sequences in which the hopelessly inept replacement players are trained by Coach McGinty, but also the five games depicted in the
film... in which the Sentinels take on the Miami Barracudas, San Diego Stallions, Detroit Ironmen, Phoenix Scorpions and the climactic battle with the Dallas Ropers.
"We developed 44 plays for this movie, and that's a lot of plays," states Graf. "Since this is a comedy, we should keep the football real and allow the humor to emerge from the characters. That's what we've tried to do, and audiences are going to see some big time plays and hits, much like what we did in 'The Waterboy,' 'Jerry Maguire,' 'The Program' or 'Any Given Sunday."'
For approximately two weeks of the shoot, the field at PSINet Stadium was occupied 24 hours a day by the "Replacements" company, with first unit shooting by
day, and second unit taking over at sunset. "I felt like we were working at a Greek diner in New York, an around-the- clock operation," jokes
Chernov. (So did the film's caterers, which had to feed roughly 800 people with the first unit, and then 500 people from second unit).
The entire company--and particularly his fellow Sentinels teammates, both actors and real players--were astonished at Keanu Reeves' development as a quarterback through filming. Reeves, who gained 23 pounds for the role, could throw about 15 yards when he first came to training camp. By the midway point of production, he was firing bullets some 50 or 60 yards downfield. The actor won friends for both his incredibly hard work and team spirit. "Keanu is very intense, and really wants to be good," observes Allan Graf. "He just constantly practices. Between scenes, he's always throwing the ball around with the other players, running or exercising. He never stops."
"Keanu is awesome," states Brooke Langton. "He can throw and he takes all his hits. There was a moment during one of the games when he's supposed to dodge a guy on the other team, but the other player got really excited and actually took Keanu down. That can knock the breath out of you, or even break a few bones. But Keanu jumped right back up and was ready to do it again."
"Keanu can really throw the ball down half the field," observes Orlando Jones. "And he's not throwing it wobbly either. He's throwing beautiful spirals. At any given point we can get our bell rung by one of the real football players. It was fun, and we had a good time. But it wasn't like a pick-up football game — it was the real thing. There's a guy who's 6'4" and 220 pounds who's going to hit you if you catch the ball. And that's what we did all day."
As for working with Gene Hackman, the chorus of approval was unanimous. "It's like working with Jesus," states Faizon Love unequivocally. "He's the man. He can do no wrong. He's the real deal."
Keanu Reeves is only somewhat more restrained in his comments on working with his fellow star. "I got to act with Gene Hackman on my birthday, which was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
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