'This Movie Was Hell': 4 Football Movies That Were Chaos Behind The Scenes

So many fumbles.
'This Movie Was Hell': 4 Football Movies That Were Chaos Behind The Scenes

In addition to baseball, boxing, and competitive running to tell Meg Ryan that you’ve always been in love with her, football is one of the most cinematic sports of all time. As a result, we’ve gotten a number of pigskin-focused movies over the years, some of which are very good, others feature Tom Cruise profiting off of his best friend’s head trauma. But making these movies, as you can imagine, is often as disastrous as pretty much every Super Bowl halftime show, such as how …

The “Nasty” NFL Wouldn’t Cooperate With Any Given Sunday

Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday is arguably less of a football movie and more of an everybody scream until their faces are red and their neck veins are bulging movie, with some football thrown in for good measure. The 1999 flick stars Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, and Jamie Foxx – who also sang the film’s tie-in song of the same name, a rarity for Oliver Stone movies since there were sadly no R&B numbers about the improbabilities of the JFK assassination. 

While the film chronicles the season of a fictional team known as the Miami Sharks, they originally wanted to use real NFL names – although, to be honest, the “Sharks” sounds like a more appropriate name for a football team than the “Dolphins” anyway. The film even commissioned two sets of uniforms for use in production: the fake ones and ones with real NFL branding, not knowing which ones would be used until just a week before filming began.

Apparently, the NFL was reticent to trust Stone due to his “reputation as a conspiracy theorist.” Allegedly, the league wanted “wanted script approval” and editorial input, which the filmmakers weren’t willing to grant. Stone later referred to then-commissioner of football Paul Tagliabue as “an arrogant asshole.” According to Stone, the NFL was “very nasty” and “hated the script,” so they sent out a memo telling teams: “Don’t cooperate with these guys.” 

And it worked: teams were “dubious” to get involved with the film “without the NFL’s blessing.” They were only able to land a filming location because Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in Stone’s words, told the NFL “to f**k off … giving us Texas Stadium.”

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Varsity Blues Was Sued By A Real School Football Team

Also, in 1999, we got Varsity Blues, the drama about a high school football team full of Tiger Beat-friendly teens and how they manage to deal with their abusive coach, the pressures of their jerk parents, and perhaps most famously, the perils of undergarments made entirely of dessert toppings.

But even before James Van Der Beek was yelling at his dad about not wanting his life, there were already multiple teams called the “Varsity Blues” in Canada; the University of Toronto’s “football, hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball teams are called the Varsity Blues.” Hopefully, none of said teams were coached by dickish Jon Voight types. 

While the actual team in the movie was called the Coyotes, the Blues alumni director noted at the time that clearly, the studio “just didn’t bother to do a name check” on the title. So U of T sued Paramount, arguing that the film “damaged the reputation of its own Varsity Blues football team.” Paramount ended up settling the case, agreeing to “make a contribution to the university” and “place a disclaimer on the video … indicating that the team depicted is fictional and not based on the U of T Varsity Blues athletic program.”

Concussion Altered Scenes To Avoid “Kicking The Hornet’s Nest”

Before he was inflicting possible head injuries himself, Will Smith was exposing them in Concussion, the 2015 film about Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian forensic pathologist who fought to uncover the truth about CTE injuries in professional football.

But weirdly, according to the infamous Sony email leaks, the studio “altered” the film to avoid pissing off the NFL – who are essentially the villains of the story, the entity attempting to suppress the “truth” about these injuries, working against Smith’s character. Emails between the studio, the director, and reps for Smith all discussed how to adjust the film, and its marketing, to “avoid antagonizing” the NFL, and even proposed working with the NFL in order to make sure that they weren’t “kicking the hornet’s nest.” The emails also illustrated how some of the “unflattering moments for the N.F.L.” were either “deleted or changed.” Which is absolutely nuts – that’s like if they had toned down the script for All the President’s Men to avoid hurting Nixon’s feelings.

The Last Boy Scout – A Hard-Boiled Noir Became A Bonkers Spectacle

While you would be forgiven for assuming that it was a drama about a minor abandoned on a camping trip, The Last Boy Scout is the 1991 buddy action movie starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans. And guess what; it’s also a football movie, as evidenced by the opening scene in which a pro running back (played by Billy Blanks of future Tae Bo fame for some reason) scores a touchdown after whipping out a handgun and shooting the other players in the head. Which we’re pretty sure is against league rules everywhere but Texas. 

The path to making The Last Boy Scout was paved with testosterone-fueled screw-ups. For starters, it nearly didn’t have that awkward title; the script, written by Shane Black hot off of Lethal Weapon, sold to Warner Bros. for a whopping $1.75 million. Black actually turned down higher offers because he wanted to work with producer Joel Silver again. Originally the script, which Black pitched in the late ‘80s, was called Die Hard – which Silver “swiped” for some other movie you’ve probably never heard of …

While The Last Boy Scout was directed by Tony Scott, rumor has it that the production was secretly “commandeered” by Silver and Bruce Willis, who felt pressured to make a monster hit after the “underperformance” of the notorious Hudson Hawk

According to Black: “I was forced to do more rewriting on that movie than on anything else I’ve done.” For one thing, the once-central character of Willis’ wife was relegated to a minor background player because Willis pointed out that he “just did that in Die Hard.” Black felt a “general pressure to somehow make it bigger” so in addition to curtailing the wife, what was once a straight-up “hard-boiled noir” detective story suddenly had a brand new bonkers climax that featured Damon Wayans horseback riding across a football field, a guy getting pulverized by helicopter blades, and Bruce Willis dancing an Irish jig.

This all happens in the span of three minutes, by the way.

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Thumbnail: Paramount Pictures


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