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Football Film "Leatherheads" Brings Hollywood to Carolina

Posted: Apr 04, 2008

There’s been quite a lot of anticipation here in Greenville, SC over the past few months.

I mean, everywhere you go you run into someone who was either an extra in Leatherheads, or helped with something or another on the set. And then there are those who are just thrilled that George Clooney decided to use Greenville as the primary location for the film.

In the film Greenville stars as Duluth, Minnesota. Hey, the cities look so much alike. Well, at least in Clooney’s 1921 world.

Scenes were shot on South Main (just a couple of miles from the Buffalo family abode on North Main) at the Westin Poinsett hotel, including Clooney riding up in front of the hotel on a motorcycle early in the film. Later there is a nighttime scene of Clooney walking beside the hotel down Court Street on the way to a speakeasy with the Greenville skyline in the background. Scenes were shot in nearby Anderson at the Calhoun Hotel and Greenville’s Sirrine Stadium, the long time field used for Greenville High football games, was used extensively. The scene in the beginning of the film with the team playing in a pasture (featuring the scene stealing complacent cow) was shot in a field near North Greenville College in Tigerville. And the pivotol kissing scene between George and Renee took place in downtown Greer.

The stars were in town for weeks during filming, and there were countless reports of locals meeting the stars. Then they returned just last week for a private press screening followed by a press conference and a meeting with the fans outside the Ponsett the next day. (See video below) Clooney mania hit my town like a 40 megaton bomb, and today’s premier was the culmination. The movie played at three theaters locally, but it was our locally owned Camelot Theater that went all out with a red carpet premier honoring the many locals who landed parts in the film.

I had the chance to speak briefly with Clooney, who is genuinely funny, and quite charismatic. The first thing I wanted to know was how they found our fair town, and her people.

“We enjoyed walking in Falls Park, Renee did her running there, and all of the restaurants were awesome.” says Clooney. “We ate like kings. Greenville wasn’t a complete unknown town to us before we came here. I don’t think we understood how pretty it was going to be or how warm and welcoming. We didn’t know it was going to be so easy to work here. Sometimes location shooting can get tricky, but in Greenville it was easy.”

I asked the former star of TV’s ER if, during his earlier TV work such as  The Facts of Life and the Roseanne show, he dreamed that one day he would be a mega star.

“Yeah, especially when I still had my mullet. I really miss my mullet. But I got lucky when ER hit, and I got to be on a TV show that was watched weekly by over 40 million viewers. Talk about a career boost.”

I asked him if it bothered him being hounded for autographs while he is at dinner or just walking down South Main.

“No. I grew up in a little town in Kentucky and they shot a miniseries called "Centennial" there when I was 13 years old. I remember following Raymond Burr around and trying to talk to him. I am sure I was pretty annoying. But it’s sort of fun to stand there with people you know from television or in films.”

I wondered about the filming of this movie as compared to his recent dramatic films like Michael Clayton and Good Night and Good Luck.

“The movie took 65 days to shoot and we were on over 200 different locations and it’s a lot of work. We had a great time, but it’s a very tricky thing to try and put all those pieces together. Just to be able to shoot. We had a lot of digital effects to make tthe place look like 1925, so it’s tricky.In a way it was much, much harder to make than Good Night and Good Luck.”

I was just about to ask Clooney about music, and if he liked Southern Rock, when our time ran out. He was off to another Leatherheads promotion. Maybe next time.

I attended the first show today, and coming out of the theater I was actually interviewed by the local TV station. Somehow I knew they’d edit out my plug for Swampland, which they did. Rats.

Prior to the start of the film I spokewith a few people who were extras in the film, including a genteman whose entire family was used in the movie. Everyone was excited, hoping their close ups made the final cut.

As for the movie, I genuinely enjoyed it. It was a fun story, all about the beginnings of Pro Football, during a time when the sport got no respect. Renee stars as a reporter from Chicago who is trying to discredit the “war hero” turned quarterback and his tale of single handedly taking down an entire enemy platoon during the war.

Meanwhile, all Dodge (Clooney) wants is to see Pro Football get the crowds and respect it deserves. Of course his constant encounters with the newspaper girl cause him to take a real liking to her, while the team’s young QB Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) has his own eye set on the “older woman.”

There are a lot of laughs and the period costumes, sets and music really transport you back to a simpler time. A time of war heroes, prohibition, and of course, football. It’s not a a five star film,  but I give it four solid stars.  Thing is, it would still be a fun movie, even if it had not been shot in my home town.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern,

Read more recent movie reviews.

Meeting the fans in Greenville


The Trailer.


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katiedid says...

Well Buffalo I usually agree with your cinema scopes, but I didn't like this one much. Clooney was kind of cardboard. IMHO.

sarasmile says...

Great article. I saw Leatherheads today and loved it. Must have been fun talking to Clooney. Also your picture of the day, I remember The Grease Band. Col. Bruce Hampton. What a crazy fun band they were.

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