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THE LOVE GURU

The “Way” of Hockey
As a major hockey fan, Mike Myers loved having the chance to bring his favorite sport into the story of Guru Pitka, whose unorthodox means of helping the Toronto Maple Leafs – including such unlikely advice as "don't fight” – leads to one comic situation after another. From the outset, Myers hoped to showcase hockey in "The Love Guru” not only as humorously as possible, but also as authentically as possible. Early on, the production received the full support of the National Hockey League. Then they recruited Mark Ellis, renowned for creating much of cinema's most viscerally realistic sports action, who previously brought professional hockey to the screen with heart-stopping excitement in such hit films as "Miracle,” the story of the 1980 Olympic Gold Medal American hockey team.

Ellis couldn't wait to work with Myers. "As a hockey fan, he really gets the sport. So I knew we had an opportunity for this to be a very funny movie with some great game action, with lots of big hits, fast pace and great storytelling,” he says.

At the same time, Ellis knew he had his work cut out for him when he took on "The Love Guru.” He'd be trying to bring several actors who had never played hockey before up to snuff, and he would have to find a way to create real moments of free-flowing hockey action in the midst of some very slapstick scenes. He also notes that, of all sports, hockey might be one of the hardest to capture on film.

"Anytime you have to shoot action sports on frozen water it's a big challenge,” laughs Ellis. "Add to that the comedy component and you ramp the challenge way up.”

Tackling the task head on, Ellis first put Romany Malco into a blades boot camp. Malco, who hails from the South, had barely ever seen a hockey game, let alone played one. But with a rigorous training schedule over several months, he began to shine.

Says Ellis: "Romany told me right away that he was ready to work as hard as he possibly could to make his character credible. At first, Romany could barely stand up on the ice, but every day he made massive improvements and then you couldn't get him off the ice. In the end, he did a remarkable job.” Ellis also undertook training Justin Timberlake, who impressed him as a naturally gifted athlete. "With Justin, we got lucky. He's obviously hilarious; he really embraced this character and it turns out he's a great skater,” he says. "He had only skated as a kid but he picked up the skills of a goalie very fast. There are very specific nuances to being a goalie, but after just ten training sessions, Justin was tremendous.”

Meanwhile, Ellis was able to bring on board a number of pro and minor league players – including L.A. Kings star Rob Blake and such hockey legends as Jim Thompson and Bob Probert – to play members of the various teams depicted in the film. "When word got out that Mike Myers was doing a movie with some hockey scenes, my phone started ringing off the hook,” recalls Ellis. With the cooperation of the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs, "The Love Guru” production also was able to wrangle special permission to shoot on the ice during a break at an exhibition game to capture the inimitable excitement of a real hockey crowd. The crew had exactly five minutes to make it happen, so precision was everything – and they got the shots with just 10 seconds to spare!

Sums up Ellis: "I thought it spoke volumes about Mike Myers and what he means to hockey people and the NHL that they gave us this opportunity. It was the real highlight of the whole project for me, and just an amazing experience for all of us.”

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