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DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY

About The Production
For his feature film directorial debut, Thurber, a sports fanatic who gained industry attention with his "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” commercial spots for Reebok, wanted to merge the worlds of athletics and comedy. Dodgeball, he concluded, was the perfect sport to do that. "No one takes dodgeball seriously, but everyone has a visceral memory of it one way or another: you're either getting hit or hitting someone with a ball,” says Thurber.

In crafting his screenplay for DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY, Thurber considered what he calls the classic comedy anatomical "zones”: the face and groin. "Those are two places where if you hit somebody, onlookers or audiences are going to wince – and laugh,” says Thurber. "It's like Mel Brooks says, ‘If I stub my toe that's tragedy; if you fall down and break your leg, that's comedy.”” Just like the hapless office workers getting pummeled by a 300-pound linebacker in Thurber's "Terry Tate” spots.

Thurber's screenplay, while well received by studio executives, initially failed to find a buyer. Says Thurber: "I'd hear things like, ‘Wow, this is really funny … but we don't want to make a dodgeball movie.' Apparently there's very little data on how dodgeball movies perform at the box office, mostly because there were no other films on the subject.”

Ultimately, Red Hour Films, a production company headed by Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld, snapped up the script after a Red Hour receptionist read it and passed it on to a company production executive, who then gave it to Cornfeld. Finally, it landed on Ben Stiller's desk.

"We thought the script was hilarious,” says Cornfeld. "It had great characters and a subject new to films, yet one that nearly everybody has had some experience with.” Stiller adds, with a laugh: "We all carry the emotional weight and scars of the fear and glory, and, sometimes, the humiliation, that we experienced playing dodgeball as children. Perhaps these experiences led some of us to seek revenge. I think many people in show business were bad dodgeball players, and now they're ‘working things out.'”

With Stiller and Cornfeld producing, and Twentieth Century Fox coming aboard to finance and distribute the picture, the filmmakers began casting. For the role of Peter LaFleur, Thurber insists he considered only Vince Vaughn. "I tried to listen to my ‘Vince Vaughn ‘patter meter' when I was writing the character,” says the director. "Vince has a similar kind of rakish, endearing charm that Bill Murray had in films like ‘Stripes,' ‘Meatballs' and ‘Ghostbusters.'” Adds Cornfeld: "Vince really gives a lot of heart to the role of Peter, who's unimpressed by surface things. The character has a good soul but doesn't care if people like him.”

Vaughn appreciated the script's raucous humor and takes special note of its heart. "The characters are people you identify with,” he says. "It reminds me, believe it or not, of ‘The Wizard of Oz.' The Oz characters, like ours, are searching for things they already have, like heart and courage.”

Thurber was thrilled that Stiller, one of his comedy idols, would be producing DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY. He was even more pleased that Stiller, quite unexpectedly, also decided to take on the role of White Goodman. "Ben's a quick, inventive actor,” says Thurber. "There's very little he can't do in comedy.”

Stiller's White Goodman is a self-made man who projects an image of faux sexiness: fake tan, blazing white teeth, perfectly coiffed hair feathered, greased and highlighted to perfection, and a handlebar mustache. The character is, as Cornfeld describes him, "an extremely tightly-wound egomaniac with a core of self-hatred and insecurity.” This insecurity is born, at least in part, from his past. "White used to be very heavy,” Stiller points out. "Now, having completely transformed his appearance and his life, he's on a rampage,

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