Story of Eagles walk-on Vince Papale coming to big screen
Friday, June 17, 2005
By PHIL ANASTAISA
Hollywood Scene I: Guy walks into a big shot producer's office pedaling a script based on a 30-year-old bartender who makes his local NFL team in an open tryout.
Hollywood Scene II: Guy tumbles into the street, thrown out the door as his improbable script flutters through the air behind him.
"If you took this script to a Hollywood producer and it wasn't a true story, you would get kicked out of the office," said Mark Ellis, coordinating director for the football scenes for an upcoming movie based on the stranger-than-fiction experiences of Vince Papale, an Eagles rookie in 1976.
Ellis has worked on sports movies such as The Longest Yard, Miracle and Jerry Maguire but never has heard a story like this one.
Papale lived it, and still sometimes has a hard time believing it.
"When I look back, it's even more amazing," Papale said. "At the time, I guess I was kind of in a fog. Now that I think about it, I can hardly believe it happened.
"Dreams do come true."
To recap: Papale was a bartender and substitute teacher who showed up at an open tryout and made the Eagles as a reserve wide receiver and special-teams dynamo. He was a real-life Rocky, a likable neighborhood guy who made the local team.
Papale spent three years with the Eagles, making his mark in kick coverage for a team that was slowly emerging as an NFL power under coach Dick Vermeil. Papale still holds the NFL record for the oldest rookie to make a team without having played college football, excluding kickers.
"We used to compete for `Who's Nuts? ' T-shirts," Papale said. "Guy would make a big play on special teams, make a big hit or big block, they'd get a `Who's Nuts?' T-shirt.
"Now the production company that's doing the movie, they named it `Who's Nuts Productions.' "
Walt Disney Pictures is distributing the movie, which is titled, Invincible. Shooting starts July 27 in locations around Philadelphia, and open casting calls this weekend and next will provide an opportunity for local folks to earn a part in the movie.
Papale, now closing on 60, still has the energy and enthusiasm of the guy who made the Eagles as a walk-on. He's deeply involved in most aspects of the movie, from script development to locations to wardrobe to the football scenes that Ellis hopes to make as realistic as the stuff we see on Sunday afternoons.
"It's surreal," said Papale of watching his story come to life on the big screen. "It's freaking me out. It's off the chart for me, for my family."
Said Ellis: "You take Vince's energy, his passion for life and this city and this football team, and then you take this story, and you put it all in a pot and it literally cries out to be on the big screen."
Papale works as an account executive for Sallie Mae, the nation's No. 1 college loan company. He'll soon begin touring the country, and speaking to high school kids about "holding fast to your dream."
Papale said producers hope to have the movie in theaters by September 2006, timed for the start of another NFL season.
The big question: Who's Vince, circa 1976?
Tom Cruise? Brad Pitt?
"How about Danny DeVito? " Papale said.
CASTING CALL FOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS
Film By Who's Nuts Productions And Distributed By Walt Disney Studios
Seeking Football Players Between The Ages of 18 - 35 Years Old For A Major Motion Picture To Be Filmed In Philadelphia, PA.