11 Surprising Facts About Rudy
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.
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 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. Divine 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.
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.