We gave it a C
George Clooney was in a hurry to make this romantic comedy about pro football during the Roaring ’20s. Not because of a looming actors’ strike and not because of some drop-dead release date. ”We have to start right away,” Clooney says he told Universal, ”because I’m getting old.”
Don’t believe him for a second. It’s all part of the hustle. The 46-year-old jock still has game — he even risked his surgically repaired back to bump heads with football behemoths half his age. In the film, he plays Dodge Connolly, the renegade leader of a ragtag football team that recruits a WWI hero (John Krasinski) to reverse the league’s fortunes. When a tenacious Chicago reporter (Renée Zellweger) crashes the men-only press box, both players wrestle for her affections.
Clooney, who earned an Oscar nod for his last directorial effort (Good Night, and Good Luck), led a four-month shoot in the Carolinas that emphasized efficiency. ”He has the entire film in his head,” says Krasinski. ”So he knows he has the take before you do. Which is kind of scary because on take 2 or 3, he’s like, ‘Got it, moving on.”’ He even apologized to Zellweger one day because they worked — gasp — 12 hours. ”If you’re looking to get paid overtime, you don’t want to work on his crew,” says the actress. ”Because we’re all going home for dinner.” Or somewhere for happy hour. ”It was basically Guys Night Out all the time,” admits Krasinski.
To make Leatherheads, Clooney resurrected a script that two Sports Illustrated writers (Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly) had sold to Universal in 1991, beefing up a plot he likens to Slap Shot meets The Philadelphia Story, as filtered through the Coen brothers. Reilly was just happy to see it made, especially by Clooney: ”It was like finding out a child you had to give up for adoption and haven’t seen for 15 years is not only alive, but is Miss Teen California.” Clearly, Clooney has no intention of following the formulaic sports-movie blueprint. ”With any luck, we set up a few classic sports moments and then sort of poop all over them,” he says. ”That’s our hope. Our hope is that every time you think it’s going to get really sappy for a second, we turn it on its ear.”