About The Production
Recreating the intensity and excitement of Friday night football games was of para-mount importance to director Robbins
Recreating the intensity and excitement of
Friday night football games was of paramount importance to director
Robbins. "Being a big sports fan, I couldn't make a movie
with nonrealistic action scenes," Robbins declares. So cinematographer
Charles Cohen, whose experience capturing live sporting events
is unparalleled, and football coordinator Mark Ellis were hired
to ensure Robbins' vision would be carried out. "I didn't
want to shoot this movie like you see football on television.
I wanted to try to make the audience feel as though they are in
the game. We created a play book just like you would in a real
team. We knew every play, made camera plots, and before we ever
stepped onto the field, we knew how we wanted to shoot every sequence."
With Musco lights ablaze and teeming crowds in the stands beneath
the signature water towers that dot the Texas landscape, members
of the cast and crew of "Varsity Blues" worked diligently
to mimic the sport of live high school football. The natural athleticism
of the young cast coupled with their intensive training by veteran
football coaches and actual players further enhanced the reality
of the brutal contact sport.
Mark Ellis, whose long list of credits as football coordinator
include "The Program," "Jerry Maguire" and
the Adam Sandler film "The Waterboy," interviewed over
350 candidates and put together a core group of 40 of the best
young players in West Texas to surround the five principal actors
on the field. He designed all the plays used in the film and put
his players through weeks of an intensive mini-camp.
When the actors arrived in Austin, they were immersed in this
group and underwent extensive and rigorous training of their own.
Former University of Texas quarterback and local hero Peter Gardere
assisted Ellis in teaching the actors the fundamentals of the
sport and how to run the specific plays in the film, and helped
Van Der Beek and Walker look like all-state quarterbacks. The
actors were in heaven, as Van Der Beek enthuses, "We got
to put on football pads, step out onto the field with a bunch
of real football players and actually run plays, catch the ball,
run to the end zone, get hit and see the crowds on their feet.
It was a blast. We play the game in this movie the way it's played
in real life. I think not only football fans are going to be impressed
but anybody who's ever played football."
Ellis continues, "It's real, full-contact, wide-open football.
We shot as close to the game as possible and tried to make Texas
high school football look as great as it is. Most of our guys
are former district allstate football players. We had to have
players of that caliber who understood football well and could
take hits, because Texas ball is very sophisticated. Brian and
Chuck (Cohen) understand the game and have a good eye for it.
The action in this movie is tremendous."
"The greatest challenge was the action and football. You're
out on the field night after night, week after week, you have
100 players on the field, another 1,000 people in the stands,
all the sideline extras, referees and you're in this enormous
100 yard by 50 yard space. It's draining and takes a great amount
of concentration and preparation," Robbins comments.
"Nothing beats going to the actual location of your script
to shoot," says Robbins. Principal photography on "Varsity
Blues" began in April 1998 in Coupland, Texas, a small farming
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