PLAY IT TO THE BONE
About the Production
Writer/Director Ron Shelton has successfully explored the worlds of baseball ("Bull Durham ,"
"Cobb"), basketball ("White Men Can't Jump") and golf ("Tin Cup"). With "Play It To The Bone," he steps into the world of boxing, a sport he professes to be his personal favorite.
"I've been going to bouts both in L.A. and Las Vegas for years, and have many friends in the fight world," Shelton says. "I've always found it to be the sport with the most interesting characters, and I think it's the sport that's been the subject of some of the best sports movies.
"The world of boxing encompasses good, evil, the innocent and the perverse," Shelton continues. "I've found boxers to be the toughest, most focused, most compelling athletes. For the most part, they're the sweetest guys in the world, but in the ring, they're killers. I wanted to explore that."
"When we were first talking about doing a project together," recalls producer Stephen Chin, "Ron told me he wanted to do a boxing movie that would show people what the inner-world of boxing was really like. He wanted to show that journeymen boxers who no one has ever heard of can sometimes achieve the greatest moments in the sport."
The original story for the script was actually based on a true experience. Years ago, Shelton's longtime friend and professional boxing publicist Bill Caplan regaled the director with a tale of two boxers who were called in at the last minute
to replace the fighters in an undercard event. Caplan related that the match, almost ignored at the beginning, turned into the highlight of the evening.
Shelton never forgot the story, which he used as the basis for his screenplay. As he began to write, he tailored the female lead for Lolita
Davidovich, whom he had previously directed in the starring role of
While writing, Shelton began to see the faces of the two men who would face each other in the ring. "Woody Harrelson's work keeps getting more interesting," says the director. "After I directed him in 'White Men Can't Jump,' I wasn' t sure what his range would be, but he has chosen very challenging material, and has been great. He's shown himself to be a guy not choosing the easy way out, and he's grown and continues to grow as an actor. As for Antonio
Banderas, he showed his athleticism and grace as Zorro, but I chose him for much more than that. I had loved his work from his films with Pedro
Almodovar. He's touching, he's funny, and he is a great actor with enormous range." Shelton never had to consider alternatives, as both actors immediately agreed to the project.
Woody Harrelson recalls, "Ron told me he wrote the part of Vince for me. That was very flattering, so I couldn't say no. But I wouldn't have wanted to. I was excited about the prospect of working with Ron again."
Having cast the men who would portray the fighters, Shelton went about preparing them for the physical aspects of their roles. The director called upon Darrell Foster, who had been involved in the boxing world since he was 12 years old, and has worked with numerous fighters including Sugar Ray Leonard. Foster also trained Ving Rhames for his portrayal of Sonny
Starting two months prior to the beginning of principal photography, Foster took Banderas and Harrelson and began a regimen to give them a realistic view of what it was like to be a fighter. "The concept we established at the beginning," says Foster, "was that since they were going to be portraying professional fighters, we would cut to the chase, and train like professional fighters. The regimen was extremely taxing, both physically and mentally."
Both actors subjected themselves to grueling workout sessions. Both before and during filming, the two would get up at 5:00 A.M. for road work, followed by weigh
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