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BLADES OF GLORY

Doing Lutzes Without Being Klutzes
Speck and Gordon had very specific ideas about how to visually tackle "Blades of Glory.” Per Speck: "It's almost like shooting a musical in terms of how we started to think about and prep the skate numbers and the costuming. With the choreography and the stylistic element—taking our cue from the reality of the sport—it's pageantry and it's beautiful.”

"In some of those superhero movies, since nobody knows what it really looks like to fly, you can make it look official,” says co-director Gordon. "But everybody knows what it looks like to skate. I mean, they watch it on the Olympics.”

"So, what we had to do is take actors and make them look graceful,” completes Speck. "Otherwise, the whole thing would look cartoonish.”

While "Blades of Glory” does take advantage of wires, greenscreen and other sophisticated effects to create the dazzling and physically impossible routines executed onscreen, Ferrell, Heder, Arnett and Poehler underwent extensive training (apart and together) to approximate the speed and agility of professional pairs skaters. (Many supporting players joined in with the pre-filming training regimen as well.) And all of them came away with newfound respect for professional figure skaters.

"You don't realize how much work it takes to ice skate,” says Ferrell, "because you watch it on TV and you figure, ‘Well, it can't be easy,' even though they make it look so easy. But let me tell you, it's not easy. Jon and I trained for months and it was a big accomplishment for us just to be able to move around on the ice and look somewhat graceful.”

"Will [Arnett] grew up skating, but at the start, I had to train a couple of times a week just to get comfortable standing up on skates,” says Poehler. "I have a great deal of admiration for professional skaters and how easy they make it look. That's why they have such great butts and legs, and they're in such great shape. And unlike actors, they never complain.”

Arnett proved to be better than good at portraying a professional skater, says producer Jacobs. "He got to the point that we didn't really need a double for him. Most of his performance he was able to do himself, which sort of blew everyone away.”

Heder and Ferrell, meanwhile, were busy learning to crawl before they could walk, so to speak. "Most of our time on the ice was actually spent trying to learn the basics apart from each other,” says Heder, "because we knew, at some point, we'd have to start working together. But the biggest chunk of time was learning the basics, to really get a sense of it. It's very specific, like math. But when you do it right, you get this kind of exhilaration.”

The cast weren't the only ones who found their admiration for the real athletes growing—the filmmakers, too, came away with a deeper appreciation for the sport and its participants. Cornfeld was particularly struck by the sport's strict regimen and rigorous practice schedules. "These people are real athletes,” says producer Cornfeld. "But unlike other competitive sports, there's this additional layer of music, dance, choreography and ice. It's quite impressive.”

After mastering the rudiments, the actors had to conquer the task of how to dance on the ice, solo and in pairs. They were fortunate to be able to work with one of the best professional skating choreographers around, Sarah Kawahara, who earns high praise not only from the cast, but from one of her best students, Scott Hamilton. "I worked with Sarah for 20 years and the skater I became while working with her is so much better than the skater I was when I competed in the World and Olympic level,” he says. "She's so technical and so artistic, and her point-of-view is from such a different place that she forces you to get better each year. She takes you to your limit.”

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