Somewhat ghoulishly, Dawson insisted on brief rehearsals between Notre Dame tacklers and Fawzian ballcarriers before a scene was filmed. In one particularly awesome run-through, the entire Notre Dame line got in ready position, someone pitched a ball to an unsuspecting Fawzian—"Like he's getting ready to fair catch a punt," Dawson said in a voice that was gleefully sad—and then the Notre Dame onrushers buried the Fawzians in the Kentucky bluegrass.
As the game sequences continued, the plot got crazier, the players more bewildered and Thompson paid less attention to whatever semblance of football realism there had ever been.
"This is some deal," said Martin, who fills out a uniform the way a harem girl fits into a costume she can keep in her purse. He was strolling back to the sideline after a take. "Did you see what that silly script had us do? We're on the one-yard line and they had me kick a field goal. Top of that, Thompson lets the Fawzies climb up on their shoulders and block it! Some football."
Another time, Fawz kicked off to Notre Dame, and Thompson promptly gave the ball to Fawz. Dawson objected. He explained the rules. Thompson calmly listened and then said, "Well, that's a horrid rule."
Off to one side, Blatty, the writer, said, "Jim doesn't understand that it'll all come out O.K. in the editing. Anyhow, maybe the secret to making a funny movie about football is to have a director who doesn't know a thing about the game. J. Lee does come up with some great ones. What's offsides? What do you mean, a quarter? What does it mean when the king says, 'Win one for the Gipper?' Why is it funny that the Fawz line is known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom? Things like that."
"It's nutty," said Jim Dawson. "That's show biz, Tootsie," said Blatty.
Thompson, a tiny lean bundle of energy in enormous dark glasses whose idea of after-work entertainment was to eat five bowls of hot sauce at a Mexican restaurant, had his own conclusions. "The only thing I've found out for myself around here about football is that a good British Rugby team could beat Notre Dame any day," he said. "People say I don't know the game. Of course I know it. Look here. The only real difference between the American game and ours is that you pass the ball forward and we pass it backward. And in that respect our game is much more artistic."
Moviemaking is a painfully tedious business, mainly because directors insist on shooting every scene from every conceivable camera angle. During the long, drowsy pauses in the desert sun the players spilled across the field in shorts to sunbathe, rolled under trailers and sound trucks to sleep or read, sat around crates and boxes to play cards and drink beer, played lazy games of touch football and sometimes, in more energetic moments, romped off across the sand in pursuit of a harem girl.
One afternoon near the completion of the picture, everyone seemed a little perkier than usual. Several busloads of people from Hollywood trade papers, agencies and newspapers roamed the premises. The men, columnists included, removed their shirts, and the women stared hypnotically at the ponderous athletes. A helicopter landed and unloaded Steve Parker, who had flown in from Tokyo. He took off his shirt. Publicity Man Don Prince drove up with a trailer full of beer. A camel groaned. And the stars wandered around like just plain folks.
Scott Brady, a husky Irishman who claimed he was a true Notre Dame fan and a former member of New York's subway alumni, playfully assembled some members of his team and said, "I only got me one rule on this squad. No beer before 10 in the morning." And he went for a beer.