11 Winning Facts About Rudy

TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Ah, Rudy. It's like 100 cc of inspiration injected directly into your crying heart. It's the movie people turn to when they need to get off the couch and achieve. And it goes beyond being a mere football film; it’s a story about perseverance paying off, if only for 17 glorious seconds.

Based on the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger’s drive to play college football for Notre Dame, the movie teaches us to refuse to give up on a dream—even when the thousandth person tells us it’s never going to happen. Its cultural legacy is tied up in making the steeliest cinephiles tear up, debating whether Rudy was offside (he wasn’t), and a GIF of Charles S. Dutton slow-clapping awkwardly (it’s difficult with winter gloves on, okay?).

For Rudy’s 25th anniversary, let’s cheer on some interesting facts about the film.

1. IT WAS VINCE VAUGHN’S MOVIE DEBUT.

Vince Vaughn did a car commercial, appeared on TV’s China Beach, and did a crowd scene in the 1991 Bette Midler movie For the Boys, but playing tailback Jamie O’Hara was his first credited film role. Vaughn’s character is a smarmy player who bashes Rudy (Sean Astin) in the beginning, but by the end pushes the team to defy their head coach’s play-calling so that the defense (and Rudy) can get on the field. Plus, this is the first movie to feature Vaughn and Jon Favreau, who would make Swingers together in 1996 and launch themselves into stardom.

2. IT’S FROM THE TEAM THAT MADE HOOSIERS.

It seems obvious once you know it. Rudy may as well be a spiritual sequel to the college basketball drama, what with the shared grit, drive, and Indiana shooting locations. Angelo Pizzo wrote the script for Hoosiers, and David Anspaugh directed. While it took some convincing to get Pizzo on board with another Indiana-set sports movie, he and Anspaugh collaborated to make a second iconic, uplifting movie.

3. TOM CRUISE ACCIDENTALLY HAD A HAND IN GETTING IT MADE.

After Hoosiers, Anspaugh and Pizzo were developing a movie about the Indy 500 for Orion Pictures, but it got axed after a year’s worth of work when Tom Cruise signed up to make Days of Thunder. The cancellation left the screenwriter and director open to other ideas, one of which was Ruettiger’s story.

4. IT GOT MADE BECAUSE SOMEONE EAVESDROPPED IN A HOTEL.

Former Notre Dame football player Rudy Ruettiger attends the 17th Annual Sports Spectacular at the Century Plaza Hotel on June 30, 2002
Robert Mora, Getty Images

Just how did Anspaugh and Pizzo catch wind of Ruettiger’s story? It wasn’t a newspaper article or a feature on TV. The brother of their friend from college was at a hotel when he overheard a guy telling an epic tale about achieving his dream to play for Notre Dame. The guy turned out to be Ruettiger, and after listening in, the eavesdropper told him he knew the filmmakers behind Hoosiers. Naturally, Ruettiger jumped at the chance to have them tell his triumphant story.

5. NED BEATTY HAD A CONNECTION TO SEAN ASTIN'S FAMILY.

The legendary Ned Beatty played Sean Astin’s dad in Rudy, and a year earlier he’d played husband to Astin’s real-life mother, Patty Duke, in the supernatural romance Prelude to a Kiss.

6. THE REAL RUDY IS IN THE STANDS AT THE END.

While the crowd erupts in the final seconds of Notre Dame’s game against Georgia Tech, and Rudy’s dad bursts with joy at the sight of his son finally taking the field, the man cheering along behind him (in a blue coat with a rocking fur lapel) is the real-life Daniel Ruettiger, who was on set every day as a consultant.

7. JOE MONTANA WAS ON THE TEAM, BUT NOT IN THE MOVIE.

Joe Montana started his college football career at Notre Dame in 1974 and was there as a back-up quarterback in the 1975 season that features Rudy’s single appearance on the field. But he’s not a character in the film because all of the players’ names and characteristics are fabrications. The three-time Super Bowl MVP is also open about the film’s fictional liberties, once saying, “[Rudy] worked his butt off to get where he was … but not any harder than anybody else.”

8. THE JERSEY SCENE NEVER HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE.

The Hollywoodification Montana and others most like to point out is the scene where the players all threaten to quit by dropping their jerseys on Coach Dan Devine’s desk unless Rudy gets to play, which never happened. The scene shifts Devine from crusty obstacle to full-on villain, needing a bold gesture to force him to let the scrappy Rudy suit up when, in real life, Devine announced that Rudy would dress for the game days before kickoff. Devine has publicly spoken against his characterization in the movie, saying, “There’s not an iota of truth in it.”

9. RUDY DOESN’T HAVE A BROTHER NAMED FRANK.

Beyond the jerseys, the biggest fabrication of the film is Frank, a person who simply does not exist in real life. Played by Scott Benjaminson, Pizzo invented Rudy’s big brother Frank as a human symbol of all the people who discouraged Rudy.

10. THERE IS ONE REAL NOTRE DAME PLAYER ON THE MOVIE’S TEAM.

Sean Astin stars in 'Rudy' (1993)
TriStar Pictures

NCAA rules prevent college players from being in movies, but Notre Dame defensive lineman Peter Rausch had already completed his NCAA eligibility by the time the movie started filming. He can be seen wearing the number 75, starting the “Rudy” chant from the field. His character’s name is “Steve.”

11. THE GAMES FEEL REAL BECAUSE OF THE CINEMATOGRAPHY.

If you find yourself thinking the games in Rudy look exactly like the football you watched every Saturday and Sunday in the '90s, it’s because NFL Films shot them. Instead of adding an epic sheen to the bouts with impossible close-ups and swooping pans that make each tackle look like a war movie, the team opted to shoot plays from the sidelines. The result is a naturalistic style that still puts you right into the huddle.

Josh Trank Wouldn't Mind Erasing Fantastic Four From Film History

Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

It’s not every day that you hear a director talking about wanting to completely erase one of their projects from film history. But when the topic of the 2015 box office bomb Fantastic Four comes up, director Josh Trank isn't mincing words. The director tweeted that he would “gladly” donate to a GoFundMe page to have his failed adaptation erased from the cinematic history books.

It's no secret that Fantastic Four is a sore subject for Trank. The production was plagued with rumors that there was a bit of friction on set, particularly between the director and star Miles Teller. Even once the film had wrapped, reports about the troubled production plagued Trank, and eventually led to him parting ways with Disney, for whom he was supposedly developing a standalone Boba Fett movie. (It didn't help that Fantastic Four tanked at the box office and even won a Razzie for Worst Picture).

The topic of starting a GoFundMe page for the film started after Trank responded to fans rallying for a page to get the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed digitally erased. When asked if he would support a page to get rid of Fantastic Four, Trank seemed to oblige (though he has since deleted the tweet).


It’s no secret the previous Fantastic Four movies have had little success, but now that Disney and Fox are joining forces, the series could be entering into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe now these superheroes will finally get the movie they deserve.

Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The theater owners and exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in February 1989 had a lot to look forward to. In an attempt to stir their interest in upcoming studio releases, major distributors were showing off stars and footage: Paramount led with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Columbia had Ghostbusters II. But it was Warner Bros. that caused the biggest stir.

In addition to Lethal Weapon 2, the studio had Tim Burton’s Batman, a straight-faced adaptation of the comic, and Michael Keaton—who slipped into a screening of some early footage—was no longer being derided as a poor casting choice. Then, in the midst of all this star power, the studio brought out a 35-year-old actor-writer-director with a shock of orange hair and an Australian accent.

The man had never appeared in a feature film before, much less starred in one, but Warner was gambling that his forthcoming comedy about a Tasmanian Albert Einstein who invents rock music and runs into Thomas Edison would be a hit. It had already become the sixth highest-grossing film in Australia's history, besting both E.T. and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

The man’s real name was Greg Pead, but Warner Bros. introduced him as Yahoo Serious, Hollywood’s next big comedy attraction.

 

To understand Warner’s appetite for an unproven commodity like Yahoo Serious, it helps to recall the peculiar preoccupation American popular culture had with Australians in the 1980s. Energizer had created a hit ad campaign with Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a pro football player who aggressively promoted their batteries in a series of ads; meanwhile, Paul Hogan parlayed his fish-out-of-water comedy, Crocodile Dundee, into the second highest-grossing film of 1986. (Serious would later bristle at comparisons to Hogan, whom he referred to as a “marketing guy” who sold cigarettes on Australian television.)

Born in Cardiff, Australia on July 27, 1953, Serious grew up in rural bush country and mounted car tires at a garage in order to pay his way through the National Art School. When he was expelled for illustrating the school's facade with satirical jokes that the faculty didn’t find particularly funny, Serious moved on to direct Coaltown, a documentary about the coal mining industry, and pursued painting.

Serious would later recall that the desire for a larger audience led him away from art and into feature filmmaking. ''It hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” Serious told The New York Times in 1989. “I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, 'Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it's the most wonderful living art form.'” It was around this same time, in 1980, that Serious changed his name.

To get a feel for the language of film, Serious sat through repeated viewings of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; he aspired to have the kind of total autonomy over his movies that directors like Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed.

In 1983, Serious was traveling along the Amazon River when he spotted someone wearing a T-shirt depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out. The image is now pervasive, appearing on posters and other merchandise, but it seemed unique to the performer, who was struck by the idea that Einstein was once young and never took himself too seriously. And the concept for Young Einstein was born.

 

Serious's idea, which transplanted Einstein to Tasmania and imagined encounters with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, and the atomic bomb, took years to assemble. He borrowed camera equipment and sold his car to help finance the film; he shot an eight-minute trailer that convinced investors he was capable of making a feature. His mother even cooked meals for the crew on set.

In order to maintain creative control, Serious gave up profit participation in Young Einstein, which he starred in, co-produced, co-wrote, and directed. When the film was released in Australia in 1988, it made an impressive $1.6 million at the box office and drew the attention of Warner Bros., which likely had visions of a Crocodile Dundee-esque hit. American press had a field day with Serious, who appeared on the cover of TIME and was given airtime on MTV.

Critics and audiences weren’t quite as enamored. The Orlando Sentinel suggested that "Tedious Oddball" would be a more appropriate name for the film's creator. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote that, "Young Einstein is a one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." In the U.S., Young Einstein grossed just over $11 million, a fairly weak showing for a summer comedy. It was bested in its opening weekend by both Ron Howard’s Parenthood and the Sylvester Stallone action-grunter Lock Up.

 

Although American distributors quickly cooled on Serious, Australia's enthusiasm for the filmmaker didn’t dampen. When Serious released 1993’s Reckless Kelly, a fictionalized account of outlaw Ned Kelly, it made $5.4 million in Australia—three times as much as Young Einstein. Serious took a seven-year sabbatical, then returned with 2000’s Mr. Accident, a slapstick comedy about an injury-prone man who tries to thwart a scheme to inject nicotine into eggs. Meeting a tepid critical and financial reception, it would be his third and (likely) final film.

At roughly the same time Mr. Accident was released, Serious took issue with upstart search engine Yahoo!, alleging the site was piggybacking on his popularity. He filed a lawsuit, which was quickly dropped when he failed to prove the URL had damaged him in any way.

Yahoo Serious attends an event
Paul McConnell, Getty Images

The amused headlines stemming from that incident were the last examples of Serious capturing attention in America. Having completed just three films, no other projects have come to fruition; Serious launched a website detailing some of his background and to air some of his Yahoo!-related grievances.

Now 65, Serious currently serves as founding director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian aid organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Papua New Guineans. The board’s website lists him as Yahoo Serious, which is the name he claims that all of his family and friends have called him since he changed it in 1980.

“You can choose every aspect of your life,” Serious once said. “Why not your name?”

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