11 Surprising 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 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.

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.

13 Great Rockumentaries Every Music (and Movie) Fan Should See

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

More people are watching documentaries these days, which likely means that more people are rocking their faces off with nonfiction. Far from Ken Burns’s soothing tones, these music-filled films demand amplification and an unseemly amount of perspiration.

Rock documentaries are tricky beasts. Though they often have the built-in advantage of following around famous people, they aren’t immune to boredom and eye-rolling faux depth. Keeping it simple by showcasing the music can be good, but it’s no way to be great. The best of the best manage to deliver a stellar soundscape, offer a backstage pass to the real humans who make it, and hold our ears even if we aren’t already devoted fans. If a little history gets made in the process, even better.

Grab a seat next to Penny Lane on the bus. Here are 13 of the best documentaries that every music—and film—fan should add to their Must Watch list.

1. WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE U.S.A. (1964)

A singular piece of filmmaking where nonfiction talent met transcendent musical genius on the threshold of gargantuan stardom, this is the best Beatles documentary ever produced. Directed by legendary documentarians Albert and David Maysles, the film captures the band’s first frivolous jaunt through America, where they raised the screaming decibel level in The Ed Sullivan Show theater and goofed off in hotel rooms. It’s an explosion of youth before they changed music forever.

2. DON’T LOOK BACK (1967)

Another marriage of style, skill, and subject, Don't Look Back helped shape how the rockumentary genre could provide insights into the people who shape our popular culture. That so many iconic moments emerged from D.A. Pennebaker’s watershed work, which strolled with Bob Dylan through England in 1965, is a testament to the legendary musician's infinite magnetism. The cue cards, singing with Joan Baez in a hotel room on the edge of breaking up, the Mississippi voter registration rally, and on and on. Since it portrayed fame’s effect on the artist, the art, and the audience, most every other rock doc has been chasing its brilliance.

3. GIMME SHELTER (1970)

The rockumentary has evolved to be as diverse as the sonic landscape itself, which is why Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping can send up the current scene just like This Is Spinal Tap! did in the 1980s. Still, 1970 feels like the year that defined the rockumentary. Another Maysles joint, this profound doc captured The Rolling Stones touring at a time when they were one of the biggest bands in the world and only getting bigger. The music is powerful and immediate, and the film closes with their appearance at the Altamont Free Concert, which turned deadly when—after a day of skirmishes between concertgoers and the Hell’s Angels acting as security—a fan with a gun was stabbed to death when he tried to get on stage during “Under My Thumb.”

4. WOODSTOCK (1970)

The other 1970 film that helped define the genre allowed thousands to claim they’d been to the biggest concert event of the generation without actually going. If rock ‘n’ roll emerged from unruly teenage years into conflicted young adulthood in the 1960s, nothing stamped that image in henna ink better than Woodstock and the documentary that accompanied it. The bands that appear are legendary: Crosby, Stills & Nash; The Who; Joe Cocker singing The Beatles; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and many more. It’s a fly-by of the three days of peace and music that you could play on repeat with summery ease.

5. ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1973)

Rock doc royalty D.A. Pennebaker captured David Bowie’s final performance in his red-domed sci-fi persona at London's Hammersmith Odeon with a flair that captures the frenetic energy of the room. The crowd is as much a part of the moment as the band is, as the camera places you in the middle of a transitional moment in music history. To see Bowie that close up now is a wonder. And, naturally, the music is out of this world.

6. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)

Instead of following the famous, Penelope Spheeris’s debut dug its nails deep into the Los Angeles punk scene at the turn of the decade. Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and other bands your parents have never heard of perform mosh pit-sparking anthems and show off their living conditions like a grungy proto-version of MTV Cribs. There’s a purity here missing from most music docs—a chronicle of people whose passion far, far outweighs their paychecks, and a screening that led the LAPD to request that the movie never be shown in LA again.

7. SIGN "☮" THE TIMES (1987)

Having Prince at the center of your concert doc is a shortcut to ensuring it’s one of the best of all time. There’s the music, of course. Hits like “Little Red Corvette” and “U Got the Look,” and Sheila E. beating the hell out of her drum kit. There’s also The Purple One's inexhaustible energy and stage presence. As a bonus, the film jumps between concert footage and (instead of candid hotel conversations) a sci-fi narrative where we get to go to Prince Planet. It’s a rocky, disorienting experience that could have only been held so tightly together by a master showman.

8. MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE (1991)

It might be hard to explain to a younger audience just how dominant Madonna was as an artist coming out of the 1980s or the kind of landmark event this film represented because of her status. The travelogue of her Blonde Ambition Tour was like peeking into the insane world of the ultra-famous—not least because Madonna was dating Warren Beatty at the time and part of the film involves her hanging out with Al Pacino, Lionel Richie, and more. There are threats that the Canadian police will arrest her for simulating masturbation in her show, the Pope trying to get the tour canceled in Italy, and a slightly awkward return home to see family. All par for the course for someone whose personal life was carved up for public consumption.

9. RHYME & REASON (1997)

An unparalleled look into the lyricism and lifestyle of rap musicians from the genre’s rise through its global domination of the 1990s, the concert and party footage is fantastic, and the number of interviews is staggering. Peter Spirer spoke with more than 80 rap and hip-hop artists to craft a snapshot of what life was like for a group of musicians who discovered their voices could echo across the world as well as those who followed after to even greater success. Instead of going deep on one person behind the music, it’s a historical document of the culture itself as seen through the eyes of those at its very center.

10. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (2005)

For those who don’t know Daniel Johnston’s music, this doc is a crash course not only in its stripped-down, anti-folk vibes but the head it all comes spilling out of. Instead of romanticizing or ignoring his bipolar disorder, Jeff Feuerzeig’s movie engages with it directly, drawing beautiful gems from a troubled mind. An absolute masterpiece, it’s less a vision of a musician giving glimpses into his real life than it is a vision of a human being who makes music.

11. AWESOME; I F*CKIN’ SHOT THAT! (2006)

Rockumentaries follow two major formats: the raw concert doc that’s like a ticket to a show you couldn’t attend, and the profile where artists drop quotables in between performances. They’re safe and familiar, which is probably why the Beastie Boys gave both styles the middle finger in favor of a grand experiment. A year before YouTube launched, the rap trio gave 50 fans in their Madison Square Garden audience camcorders to capture the concert. The result is a genuine, fans’-eye-view of the experience, and a chaotic mashup of perspectives.

12. THE PUNK SINGER (2013)

It’s astonishing how much time and ground Sini Anderson’s portrait of Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna covers. It’s so much that labeling her Bikini Kill’s leader is woefully reductive. Artist, pioneer, feminist, activist, and a dozen other titles swirl around Hanna’s sweat-covered brow as we get to know her both as an artist and as a person. It’s also a punk fever dream of riot grrrl greatness, featuring incendiary archival footage and excellent talks with members of Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, and Julie Ruin, as well as Carrie Brownstein and the Beastie Boys’s Adam Horovitz (who is also Hanna’s husband).

13. JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (2015)

A fairly recent addition to the pantheon, Amy J. Berg’s doc is a stirring tour of archival footage of the gravel-throated songstress. Narrated by musician Cat Power, instead of losing perspective to the fog of history, a blend of modern conversations and ghosts from the past offer fresh eyes and ears to create a heartsick celebration of one of music history's most beloved artists, whose career was cut woefully short.

20 Memorable Elvis Presley Quotes

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

More than 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley remains a rock ‘n' roll icon and has yet to be ousted from his position as “The King.” Yet the Tupelo, Mississippi-born, Memphis, Tennessee-raised superstar never took his fame for granted, nor did he forget his roots. Here are 20 memorable quotes about Elvis’s life and legacy.

ON AMBITION

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

ON MAINTAINING YOUR VALUES

“It's not how much you have that makes people look up to you, it's who you are.”

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.”

ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

“I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend.”

“I've never written a song in my life. It's all a big hoax.”

“I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.”

ON THE ARMY

“After a hard day of basic training, you could eat a rattlesnake.”

“The army teaches boys to think like men.”

ON TRUTH

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.”

ON THOSE LEGENDARY DANCE MOVES

“Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it.”

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess.”

ON KEEPING POSITIVE

“When things go wrong, don't go with them.”

ON STARDOM

“If you let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.”

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.”

“The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.”

“The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.”

ON LOVE

“Sad thing is, you can still love someone and be wrong for them.”

ON THE PITFALLS OF HOLLYWOOD

“I sure lost my musical direction in Hollywood. My songs were the same conveyer belt mass production, just like most of my movies were.”

ON GETTING OLDER

“Every time I think that I'm getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.”

ON LEAVING A LEGACY

“Do something worth remembering.”

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