The film, which opens in U.S. and Canadian theaters on Friday
ahead of the NFL's three-day draft from May 8-10, stars Kevin
Costner and dramatizes the backroom wheeling and dealing of
football's general managers as they jockey for the best players
and try to fleece one another while trading draft picks.
But in an age of 24-hour sports networks like ESPN and HBO's
behind-the-scenes NFL reality show "Hard Knocks," Costner said
authenticity is crucial to hook a viewer who has seen countless
locker-room speeches and front-office interviews.
"If you've ever played the sports you're trying to depict, you
don't want people just doing it and messing up completely.
People take it really personally," said the 59-year-old Oscar
winner, who built his heartland reputation with baseball films
"Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams," and golf comedy "Tin Cup."
Costner plays fictional Cleveland Browns team general manager
Sonny Weaver Jr., who has to manage upheaval in his personal life
and the dueling pressures of which player to draft from the
team's owner and its coach.
"For me, I've made a few (sports films), but I always thought
they were literate in a sense that the writing was really
exceptional, and it was set against the backdrop of each sport — and the big deal there is, 'Can you make those moments be
authentic?'" he added.
"Draft Day," directed by "Ghostbusters" filmmaker Ivan Reitman,
had the approval and participation of the NFL and several scenes
were filmed during last year's draft in New York.
It also features a cameo appearance by commissioner Roger
Goodell as well as scripted footage of the fictional draft from
NFL Network and ESPN anchors and analysts, and Houston Texans
running back Arian Foster as football prospect Ray Jennings.
The National Football League's annual draft, in which the teams
pick newly eligible players, has become big-time viewing for
television audiences hungry for football in the offseason. In
2010, the NFL moved the draft to three days from two, with the
first round getting its own primetime Thursday slot.
And, of course, the NFL is the television king with the annual
Super Bowl as the United States' most-watched broadcast, drawing
a record 111.5 million viewers in February.
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The new film begins in Cleveland on the day of the draft with
Weaver's girlfriend, Ali, played by Jennifer Garner, telling him on
one of his biggest work days that she is pregnant.
To complicate matters, Ali is one of Weaver's top lieutenants as the
Browns' salary cap guru who makes sure certain players' pay is
structured not to violate pre-set limits.
"To be a good movie, it has to have real relationships at the center
of it or the sports part of it really doesn't matter," said Garner,
adding that she drew heavily on her character from the Browns own
cap specialist, Megan Rogers.
Sonny's problems are magnified by the recent passing of his father,
a revered former Browns coach, as well as the prodding of the team's
owner to trade up to draft for a hot-shot quarterback the team does
not really need, even if it costs trading away several future top
The film has little in the way of sports-action scenes, but pulses
forward with a ticking clock counting down the hours and minutes
until the draft's first pick is unveiled.
Its frenetic nature is meant to mimic the back-and-forth talks
between teams, players and agents, with some decisions made at the
spur of the moment or on personal hunches.
"Football is the backdrop here for what is really a heist movie and
a movie about a chess game between people as well as a real romance
at the center of everything and a bunch of familial relationships
that are all needing to be tended to on one crazy day," Garner said.
"Draft Day," which is expected to gross $12 million in its opening
weekend for distributor Lions Gate according to Boxoffice.com, may
be limited in its ticket sales due to football's limited appeal
outside of Norh America.
"Will it bust out overseas?" Costner asks. "I don't know; I don't
care. I know that we had to make this as correct for us. It's a guy
and a girl and the level of confusion that comes with relationships
set against the backdrop of football."
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