Posted: Wednesday June 8, 2005 4:26PM; Updated: Friday June 10, 2005 1:32PM
SI.com: Take me through the production of your most recent film. When is the premiere? What is the timeline? Reynolds: Steve liked to [show] it earlier in camp. Dennis Erickson [Mariucci's recently fired successor] liked to do it later in camp. In this particular one, I think we [showed this one] in August after cutdowns, which gave us audience of about 60 guys as opposed to the usual 80.
In terms of a timeline, we actually shot it whenever we had time off from camp. If there was only one practice that day, we'd break out and shoot a scene and then come back, then go back out and shoot another. We basically pieced it together over a two- to three-week period.
SI.com: How involved was your own PR staff in the making of these films? Reynolds: My cameraman and myself were the only people who knew everything about each video. If anyone else participated -- if I pulled a guy in for a scene, he might know that particular scene, but he didn't know anything else.
SI.com: You surround yourself with a cast so supportive, a more discerning critic might accuse them of yielding the spotlight. How much of this is a product of chemistry, how much of it purposeful direction? Reynolds: The first year I did [a film], I tried to bring the team back into it somehow. This past one, I had [linebacker] Julian Peterson standing on a street corner. He was in the middle of a holdout, and he had turned down a signing bonus of $15 million. We knew the team would get a kick out of him standing on the corner shaking a cup and holding a sign that says "Will Tackle For Food."
SI.com: Safety Tony Parrish counted that scene among his most cherished when I spoke with him last week. I must say, the powerful backstory makes for quite the piquant inside joke. Reynolds: That's the thing: You take it out of context, and people are going to think, "You're showing a black guy as a homeless guy? That's insane." But every guy in that room got it. After a time, players would start to come to me and ask me if they could be in it in some way.
SI.com: Which begs the question: Had you intended to play the mayor of San Francisco in Episode IV or had you hoped to in fact cast his honor Gavin Newsom in that role? Reynolds: No, I had intended to play that role. Each year, I try to make fun of myself and it kills me that I offended other people. The whole point of these things is for us [me and the team] to laugh at ourselves. They laughed at Julian. They laughed at me. They laughed at [linebacker and prison inmate Jeff] Ulbrich -- that's the point. To just laugh at each other and hopefully get some messages across at the same time.
SI.com: What was it like working with former Niners athletic trainer George Chung? Reynolds: He ad-libbed the whole thing. We actually asked him if he knew of someone who would participate. [Chung's over-the-top portrayal of a Chinese man on the street is considered by many critics to be the film's most controversial scene. In the scene, Reynolds is on a troll through Chinatown and asks Chung for help translating an Asian-language newspaper.] The line we were going to have him read was "49ers suck. They have no chance." Something along those lines. He said, "Let me work on it."
SI.com: So he prepared the role? Reynolds: He did. A couple days later, he came back and just said, "I'll do it. I'll do it better than anyone else." He asked if he could borrow my glasses just before the shoot. He put them on and, literally, ad-libbed the whole thing. That's another thing: Everybody's talking about this guy with buck teeth. Other than the glasses, George doesn't have anything on. It's just him.
SI.com: How much of the dialogue was improvised, how much of it scripted? Reynolds: 100 percent improvisation.
SI.com: Curb Your Enthusiasm does this, where creator Larry David might go into a scene with some script -- it could be a line, it could be an idea -- that he'll use as a launch point for improvisation. Did your direction in this particular scene follow in that vein? Reynolds: George basically knew what my line was going to be for him to start walking [on to screen]. I hit that line -- "Excuse me, can you help me out? I'm trying to figure out what this says," -- then, bang! He just went. Some of the things he said -- such as when he's talking about [quarterback Tim] Rattay's forearm -- played right into the team. Again, no one on the outside understands that, but everyone in that room got it.