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Leatherheads

by Zach Oat October 13, 2008 11:11 am
Leatherheads

Fans of the Coen Brothers' "George Clooney is an Idiot" Trilogy (O Brother Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading) -- of which I count myself a member -- will probably like Leatherheads, which, while not directed by the Coens, certainly feels like it could have been with the addition of one or two brutal deaths. O Brother fans in particular will appreciate the film's pre-Depression-era setting and the few old-timey character actors from that film who Clooney brought with him for this, his third directing effort. Fans of sports movies and 1930s screwball comedies will also appreciate this movie, and there are plenty of extras to keep them busy on the DVD version.

Commentary Track
The commentary track is by the very laid-back Clooney and his Smoke House producing partner Grant Heslov, who is also an occasional character actor of Middle Eastern heritage. (He plays a reporter in this film; he'll also direct Clooney's next acting project, Men Who Stare At Goats.) The two talk extensively about when shoots took place in the production, and, frequently, why they had to reshoot them (lighting problems, pacing problems, camera problems). The special effects are revealed as they go, and the trouble they had to go through to make something look like the 1920s is discussed at length. George calls out great performances as they happen, and Heslov reminds him of where they found the actors. Heslov even tries to compliment Clooney on one of the scenes he's in, but even he has to admit that it's awkward.

Deleted Scenes
Aside from more gameplay footage -- from the opening, brawl-filled game in the cow field (which also has a couple of good lines) and the final mud-soaked game against Chicago -- the deleted scenes are mostly incidentals that don't really add much to the story, with a couple of exceptions. In a pair of nearly-identical scenes in the train's dining car with John Krasinski's war hero, we find out that Clooney's character fought in the war, too, but was wounded early on. We also see Jonathan Pryce's sleazy agent character hitting on a married woman at another table, which would have explained but probably cancelled out his attempt to woo Renee Zellweger in the next scene. We also get a scene where Pryce divvies up the profits from Krasinski's first game and shows that he's a slick operator, collecting money for "Miscellaneous" and sticking the team with the stadium fees. Man, that Pryce guy has been trouble ever since Haunted Honeymoon!

Football's Beginning: The Making of Leatherheads
This is your standard talking-head documentary about the film, intercut with plenty of illustrative clips and grainy, 1930s-looking footage from the set. Clooney and the screenwriters talk about where the story came from and which real-life football player served as the inspiration for the story by making the transition from college to pro football, thereby making the NFL possible. Clooney, Zellweger and Krasinski talk about the filmmaking style, and how much fun it is to be making a 1930s-style movie. (Zellweger also did a 1950s-style movie, Down With Love. Is she working her way through the decades, like Scott Bakula?) The shots of the half-built stadium sets are interesting, as are the warehouses full of 1920s costumes and props and the signmakers making 1920s-style billboards. I hope Krasinski got the giant clock with his face on it, or at least a framed copy of one of his razor blade ads. That's almost as cool as an action figure, in my opinion.

No Pads, No Fear: Creating the Rowdy Football Scenes
The differences between football in the 1920s and football today are pretty major, and so is the difference between a regular man's mustache and the bushy, grey mustache of football coach and historian TJ Troup. He was the guy hired to run the old-school plays and get the actors into shape, and this doc goes inside the training and techniques, although it doesn't ask him if he's related to Sam Elliott.

George Clooney: Leatherheaded Prankster
This mini-doc documents the longest, most drawn-out, most anti-climactic prank in the history of pranking. Since Clooney was the director, he had total control over all of his actors and crew, and he managed to waste pretty much everyone's time here in getting one over on some of the guys. ...Okay, it was kind of funny. You gotta at least admire the man for having a sense of humor.

Visual Effects Sequences
Out of all the extras, this collection of clips answered the most questions for me. In a split screen, it shows some of pretty much every single outdoor shot in the movie, with the original footage on one side and the finished footage on the other side. In some cases, the only noticeable difference is color-correcting, but in others entire audiences were dropped in, or a parking lot full of cars. It's kind of fascinating, and it makes me wonder what role that kind of extensive effects work plays in the budget of a movie like this, and whether anyone ever thought about that when preparing to make a $58 million screwball comedy period piece that only brought in about $40 million worldwide.

Interested? Buy it here.

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