Lots of Maize and Blue in ‘Red Dawn’ remake
Amelia Rayno / The Detroit News
Lining up along the 40-yard-line, padded silhouettes beneath bright lights and amid the snaps of cameras, it looked like they had done this a thousand times before. Perhaps because they had. Sort of. For former Michigan players Sean Griffin, Charles Stewart, Darnell Hood and Brandent Englemon, playing high school football players — for a team named the Wolverines, no less — in the remake of the 1980’s movie “Red Dawn,” came, in some respects, almost naturally.
“It’s just football,” said Griffin, a 2008 U-M graduate and former long snapper.
But while the football background might have had some effect on the physical aspect of the game scene, the opening scene of “Red Dawn” — a film set to open in Sept. 2010 about a group of teenagers who form an insurgency to fight off an invasion of Chinese and Russian soldiers — their experiences at the Big House perhaps played a part in their ease under the lights.
“It’s comparable, in a movie role like that, to playing in a prestigious place like Michigan, where you work so hard on (perfecting) different plays,” said Englemon, 24, who played safety for U-M from 2003-07.
“Those things kind of go hand-in-hand, because when you’re on the football field, you gotta be in the right spot at right time to make plays. And directing, it’s all about timing and being in the right spot.”
The former Wolverines were apparently in the right spot at the right time, hand-picked by football coordinator Mark Ellis and the rest of the staff at Sports Studio, a company that choreographs sports scenes in notable movies such as “We Are Marshall,” “Invincible” and “The Longest Yard.”
“We bring in some guys, and then we go into the city — Detroit, in this case — and do grass roots recruiting and have an open tryout,” assistant coordinator Pat O’Hara said. “There’s a lot of factors that come into play. These four from Michigan have a great look, they’re good guys, and they fit this high school-type level (as far as youthful appearance), but they have college ability and borderline professional ability.”
No wonder Sports Studio went through such lengths to select candidates. O’Hara said they narrowed the hundreds of applicants who put their bios up on the company’s website to 125 for the tryout. After four days of training camp, which Englemon called “kind of shocking, like the (NFL) combine all over again,” Ellis and O’Hara hired 15 for the movie, including the former Michigan players.
“It was a little different than I expected,” said Stewart, 23, a former safety and 2009 Michigan grad. "I was thinking, ’It’s a movie.’ I didn’t think we’d really be hitting each other and stuff like that, but when it came time to film, we were actually colliding.
“I felt like I had played a game. Twelve hours of straight football (during the two-day filming sessions), from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.”
Though their backgrounds elicited all the obvious comparisons, the players said there were many stark contrasts between football and filming.
“It’s a lot different because, for football, it’s more or less getting the whole play right, and (in film), it’s all about getting the scene right,” said Griffin, of whom O’Hara said is one of the best long-snappers of recent college grads and they were “lucky to find him.”
Griffin continued, “For a movie, it’s you block this guy at one time and then this other guy comes in, you block him at another time. In football it’s just making sure you block your guy, no matter how.”
But even though the pressure involved in being a part of just one scene seems incredible — “If you miss a snap, when every day on the shoot cost $250,000, you do the math,” O’Hara said — Griffin, Stewart, Hood and Englemon said it wasn’t close to the scrutiny inherent with playing football at Michigan.
“Oh that was definitely more pressure (playing at Michigan),” said Griffin, who at approximately 6-foot-1, 235 pounds was perfect as a high school offensive lineman, O’Hara said.
“Those games actually meant something. Here, we knew exactly what was going to happen, we just had to make it look good. There, you had no idea what was going to happen. You just had to react.”
But the players’ reactions to the experience was collectively enthusiastic, and all said they would seriously consider being involved in something similar in the future.
“It’s something that not too many individuals, that have been in acting for many years, even, get to experience,” said Hood, a former U-M cornerback and 2007 graduate. “And to do a big action film like this, it was definitely a great experience.”
Link to actual article http://detnews.com/article/20091014/SPORTS0201/910140340/Lots-of-Maize-and-Blue-in—Red-Dawn—remake