onboard to star and direct, Universal green-lit the movie in September 2006.
Five months later cameras started rolling in Tigerville, S.C., 45 miles from my
hometown. A few weeks ago I saw the completed movie for the first time. For me
it is the proverbial dream come true. The original magic of Johnny Blood
survived the sausage-maker Hollywood development process, and that's a miracle.
Credit Clooney, who understands Johnny Blood as well as I do, and who has a
teeny bit of clout.
We were all
perplexed, though, to learn that the NFL refused to let Universal use the name
of the Duluth Eskimos in the film. Why? Because there's drinking in the movie.
"Oh, they don't drink in the NFL," said Clooney. "I couldn't
believe it. I think I was watching a Bud commercial [when I heard]." He
probably saw it during an NFL game. As a result, the Duluth Eskimos are out of
the movie and the Duluth Bulldogs are in. The Duluth Bulldogs? As a former
fact-checker, I'm disappointed.
Last April, I took
my mom and dad to visit the set in Charlotte. Clooney was shooting a game
sequence in which 22 players were covered head to toe in mud. All you could see
were the whites of their eyes, and my 82-year-old mother kept tugging my sleeve
and asking, "Which one is George Clooney?" It was a surreal moment:
Johnny Blood, who'd been living in my head for 20 years, was coming to life.
Watching the scene, I realized that football and Hollywood aren't so different.
Great performers and magnetic personalities always find an audience, on film or
in the muck of a rain-soaked field. I'm glad Johnny finally found his.
NOW AT SI.COM
Your one stop for offbeat humor and the wackiest sports stories and links,
including Hot Clicks and the Daily List, is SI.com/extramustard.