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TALLADEGA – When a filmmaker wants to depict America’s legendary rugby coach in a film, only a legend actor can handle the job. Forever Strong shines a light on Highland High’s Coach Larry Gelwix. How good is he? His teams are 361-9 in the last three decades. He’s brought 18 of the last 24 National High School titles back to Salt Lake City. Who could dramatically play such an imposing figure behind such figures? Gary Cole took the whistle.

The star of Pineapple Express and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby dialed up the Party Favors hotline to discuss his role in Forever Strong which has recently been released on DVD. Oddly enough, the star of Midnight Caller rang me in the afternoon.

Being in the right place at the right time was the key to Cole landing the role of Coach Gelwix.

“I was in Salt Lake City in the summer of 2006 making a baseball movie (American Pasttime) when Forever Strong was being prepped and set to go,” Cole said. “I got a call barely two weeks before they were set to shoot. They had the rugby guys in bootcamp for five weeks. I got the call and switched my bags from one hotel to another.”

With such a short time, how did Cole tap into playing a real life figure?

“I got the script and I was able to meet with Larry (Gelwix). We talked about the team and his experiences,” Cole said. “Far as the rugby was concerned, he was around all the time. We just went on the fly. It wasn’t like I had two months to bone up on my rugby knowledge - which is still limited. It’s kinda of a difficult game to grasp.”

After this experience, was Cole inspired to coach a rec league rugby team?

“I would say no,” Cole declared. “I’ve played a lot of coaches. If it’s a sport you know, you can throw semi-intelligent ad libs from the sidelines because you know the game.” However rugby didn’t fit into the tested coach cliches since there’s no forward passes. “We were always dumbfounded. What should we be saying other than ‘go faster!’ Most of the time you couldn’t hear us and we were shouting out showtunes to crack each other up. They just needed some kind of syllables.”

There are very little signal calling action for the coaches during the game. The nature of the action ended up dictating the game action captured on film.

“There’s very little Xs and Os. It’s dictated by the movement of the ball. It’s pretty improvisational,” Cole said. This improv nature of the game became a part of filming the action on the filed. “They just let them play a lot of times. There were scripted things that had to happen in terms of story. But a lot of times they put the camera on a length of track and just let them play.”

Rugby is known for its brutal action with lack of pads and helmets. The slogan “give blood, play rugby” is truth. How much bloodshed was there on the field during the shoot? Was there a disabled list on the call sheet?

“Nothing that took anybody out like ‘Oh God, here we go. We got to shut it down. Sean (Faris) earned his money. He had to take most of the shots and they were in the scripts. They were headhunting him and he was the ball carrier. He got his share of bruises, fingers dislodged and a couple of groin pulls here and there. He took plenty of Advil and abuse,” Cole said.

Even though he didn’t have to take the physical abuse, Cole suffered for the shoot.

“It was the middle of summer in Salt Lake City,” Cole said. “It was 102 degrees. The coaches hardest job was finding shade on the sidelines and sipping our Gatorade.”

We discussed the unusual nature of a movie about the ultimate overdog. Sports movies are always about the scrappy underdog going against the well oiled machine. Whether it be Rocky, The Bad News Bears or the 1980 US hockey team; the big dog is meant to be taken down in these films. How did Cole work his version of Gelwik so that he wasn’t Vic Morrow? How do you make the audience embrace the winner who always wins?

“I think (the movie) had less to do with the success of the team as it did with why and how they’re a success. His methods more than winning and losing,” Cole said. “The story isn’t centered on him. The center is Sean. It’s seen through his eyes. He’s the one changing more drastically in the movie. Larry, the coach, is there doing what he does and has been doing for a long time.”

There is a Vic Morrow character in the form of Sean’s father played by Neal McDonough. He’s a vicious field coach who hates Gelwik. His anger builds when his troubled son ends up on Highland. Did Cole find the level of his character by balancing his Gelwik off McDonough’s rat bastard coach?

“No. I didn’t base anything I was doing by viewing him when I wasn’t working. We didn’t have all that much to do together. That’s more of a job of the director to balance out,” Cole said.

How does Larry Gelwix measure up to the ultimate coach that Cole has played: Reese Bobby in Talladega Nights?

“They both had different methods, but the results were the same,” Cole declared. “Reese had his own methods. He was pretty one-dimensional in his approach. I don’t think he would have had the patience for a rugby team.”

Would Reese have released a live cougar on the Highland team bus?

“He could have done that, but then there would be a lawsuit. Ricky Bobby wasn’t a minor,” Cole said.

Seeing how Gelwik has only lost 9 games, I ask Cole if he found the coach sensitive about those defeats?

“I don’t know,” Cole admitted. “He’s emotionally an even keel guy. He’s more Phil Jackson and less George Karl.”
?What makes the coach even more amazing of a figure is that this is not his day job. He’s not pulling in the big bucks from Nike.

“He’s a volunteer. He’s a travel agent,” Cole said. “That says something about him and his method as well.”

Gary Cole has been on a great roll over the last decade. As Bill Lumbergh in Office Space, Cole delivered the greatest comic sex scene in motion picture history. He was the Vice President of the United States on The West Wing. But I wondered if people ever got him confused with Gary Collins.

“Gary Collins - no. Gary Coleman - yes,” Cole declared. “I’ve been introduced as Gary Coleman on several occasions.”

Coincidentally, if you type Gary Cole’s name into the imdb, the first actor on the list is Gary Coleman.

His role as Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie was marked a stellar dadfro. Did he hang onto the curly haired wig?

“I did at one time. I think it’s burned up in the atmosphere,” Cole admitted. “The thing about The Brady Bunch is that when I wasn’t on the set, rarely people knew that it was me. You take that hair off, you’re a different person. I didn’t get a lot of association with the movie until later.”

Gary has a massive filmography. Does he ever take a day off?

“I’ve been fairly busy. I’m doing this season of Entourage. There’s plenty of days off. Most of the parts I get are wrapped up in two to three weeks in the course of a two to three month movie,” Cole said.

Besides working live action, Cole has been busy behind the microphone in animated shows including Kim Possible, King of the Hill and Family Guy. His crowning achievement was the lead in Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. Stephen Colbert voiced Phil Ken Sebben, the owner of the Hanna-Barbera themed legal firm. Did Cole and Colbert rock the microphones at the same time?
“We never did the voices together. We never met until after the show had wrapped. I met him at what turned out to be the last Aspen Comedy Festival. They were doing a tribute to him. Most of the time he was in New York,” Cole said.

Back in the ’80s, Cole was a finalist for the role of Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice. I had to know if he had landed the gig instead of Don Johnson; would Gary Cole have released a rock album?

He laughed for a while. “Highly doubtful,” Cole declared.

In an alternate universe, there isn’t a Rolling Stone magazine cover insisting “Gary Cole: Rock n Roll Star.”

WHY NOT THE SHE-TEAM?

Why exactly are they going to make A-Team into a feature film? Must we watch another batch of actors dress up in Halloween costumes for two hours? Liam Neeson playing Col. Hannibal Smith? He was going to retire from acting after Phantom Menace. Is he really going to get the rejuvenation spark from saying, “I love it when a plan comes together?” The guy would be so much better off just making Banacek: The Movie. Bradley Cooper is supposed to be Face and Common as Mr. T. How sad and predictable. Why not get semi-creative and cast Katee Sackhoff as Face. She’s already proven to be an equal of Dirk Benedict as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. Why not let her tackle his other big TV role? Or just cast her as B.A. Baracus? The woman has more attitude than the snoozer cast being floated by Scott Free.

FINALLY

Shutter Island finally brings together the superstar teaming of Martin Scorsese and Jackie Earle Haley. Leonardo DiCaprio better give full respect to the man who perfected the troubled teen persona when junket time rolls around.

BLU-RAY HEAVEN

The Siege Blu-ray gives a new life to a thriller that deserves a second viewing based on its story and amazing list of supporting actors. A decade after its release, this “It can’t happen here” story of radical Islamic terrorists striking New York City is almost a text book of what people have seen happen in the post-9/11 Manhattan. The terrorists are blowing up buses and Broadway theaters to the point where the military takes control of Brooklyn to weed them out. The ending is a bit too optimistic compared to the harsh reality of what happened when they struck in New York City. But it is rather good at foreshadowing the nature of the enemy we’ve been fighting for the last 8 years. While the film stars Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Bruce Willis, it’s the faces that have become familiar over the last decade that make this movie more surprising than a backpack of C-4. Denzel’s main FBI man is Tony Shalhoub (Monk). The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi is tied in with the terrorists. Also in minor roles are Lance Reddick (The Wire and Fringe), David Proval (The Sopranos) and Mark Valley (Keen Eddie). The Blu-ray brings out the explosions detail. The battle of Brooklyn is exceptionally vivid in the format. There are no bonus features which is a shame since it’d be nice to have terrorism experts pondering if this was a vision of the future.

Predator 2 - Blu-ray brings an intergalactic hunter out of the jungle and into Los Angeles. What’s the best way to stop the carnage? Have him sign a development deal with Pax-TV. Danny Glover is the cop who finds himself the target of the semi-visible target. The movie doesn’t have the complete punch of The Predator. But it’s fascinating to see the alien killing machine wrecking the urban jungle as he looks for the most dangerous game in Hollywood. The high definition picture makes the alien effects glow. The strange thrill will come from seeing Morton Downey Jr. in 1080p. The bonus features give a sense of what the writers and director went through to bring this sequel to the city.

Lost: The Complete First Season - Blu-ray and Lost: The Complete Second Season - Blu-ray give the 1080p love to one of the most complex network TV shows since The Prisoner. The Complete First Season jolts everything as Oceanic flight 815 crashes onto an uncharted island. The passengers learn quickly to survive as they realize there’s little hope for a quick rescue. Each episode allows us to explore the various survivors as they explore the mysterious island. What is the deal with polar bears in the tropics? What is the force that drags people into holes? Why did John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) become such a survivalist stud even though he had an issue before takeoff. What are “The Others” that lurk on the island? It’s a frightening time around the campfire. And with the higher resolutions, you’ll be scared by things that go bump in the jungle. The big cliffhanger has them bust into a mysterious metal hatch. What’s down there? The Complete Second Season answers the hatch question with startling results. Not to spoil the fun, but Clancy Brown (Highlander) plays a startling guest role. He will remind you to push the button or else. Another big thing is a flashback that allows us to discover what happened to the Oceanic passengers that got stuck at the back of the plane. The passengers at the front finally encounter the Others. It ain’t a good meetin. The hi-def video quality is stunning on the big screen. The lush tropical nature of the show will make you sweat if you marathon the episodes. You can reach out and touch Matthew Fox’s beard. These first two seasons help set up the weirdness that would come. In case you’re wondering, next season will have the final 17 episodes. Time to catch up before the TV event of 2010 strikes when everything gets answered. For those pondering upgrading your original DVDs, there is a $20 rebate on each boxset. This is a geek out recommend.

Home - Blu-ray is a lush aerial documentary of the Earth. Yann Arthus-Bertrand takes his camera around the globe to let us see what’s going on. Besides the artistry of these bird’s eye views, the movie reminds us that our actions do have reactions. Many of them aren’t that pretty. Glenn Close narrates the footage. If you like to watch Baraka after a few refreshments, Home deserves a spot on your Blu-ray shelf.

Friday 13th, Part 2 - Blu-ray gets the upgrade action. The film starts off with the final showdown between what we think is Jason and Alice Hardy (Adrienne King). Watch the high definition picture, the entire opening scene really does make little sense. Who is the killer and who is the victim? It’s a really disjointed opening scene. The main story has Camp Crystal Lake reopening with a whole new batch of eager camp counselors. Do these kids not understand what happened to the last batch? Maybe it has been five years, but they’re going to get it. Why? Cause Jason is back although he hasn’t started wearing his hockey mask. He goes crazy with the new staff. Who will live to tell the tale? There’s quite a few fun bonus features for fans wanting to know more about this low budget slasher series that made a major profit at the box office. They even take us to a horror convention to get a sense of the film’s fans.

Friday 13th, Part 3 3-D- Blu-ray really lets you absorb the coming at you action versus the recent DVD release. If you’ve decided to buy the 70 inch widescreen set versus sending the kids to Harvard, prepare to jump behind the sofa. Jason is coming for you. And they’ll be coming for your friend since there’s two set of 3-D glasses in the plastic box. The movie has Jason finally move on from slaughtering camp counselors. Now he’s killing people in the area around the camp. It’s so touching when a mindless killing machine branches out. And with the red and blue lensed glasses, you’ll be able be a part of this moment. This is also the film where he dons the hockey goalie mask. “Legacy of the Mask” deals with the mask over the next several films in the series. “Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror” lets us know why the producers decided to make the terror jump out of the screen. The films was such a hit, they ran out of glasses. There’s also a 2-D version of the film for people who don’t want to be super scared. This is the perfect gift if you’re attempting to give someone a case of nightmares for the next summer.

DVD SHELF

Another three Friday 13th installments arrive as Deluxe Editions. You might want to spread some plastic on the floor in front of the TV to keep the blood from staining the carpet.

Friday 13th: The Final Chapter - Deluxe Edition was supposed to wrap up the saga of Jason Voorhees. They brought back make up man Tom Savini to kill off his creation. They even brought in major star power with Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman. Guess who survives? You’re wrong! Really wrong. For what was supposed to be a finale, Jason decides to crash a house party in the woods. Crispin Glover and his pals can’t even find the place. But Jason has no problems locating the residence. He must have used Google Slaughter Earth. Corey Feldman is the creepy kid who lives next to the party house. He’s a lonely dork who loves making monster make up. He’s like a young Tom Savini. During the scenes where Corey gets chased by Jason, it’s easy to think that this would foreshadow his relationship with Michael Jackson. Not to spoil the film, but Jason’s death is extremely gruesome. Damn shame this moment wasn’t shot in 3-D. The big bonus feature is the deleted ending of the film. There’s no soundtrack so it gets described. “Jason’s Unlucky Day” lets the director talk about all the moments that had to get snipped by MPAA orders to get the R rating. It’s more brutal than the action on the screen.

Friday 13th Part V: A New Beginning - Deluxe Edition brings back Corey Feldman for the opening scene. He fears that Jason isn’t really dead. Two dumb jocks dig up a sloppy grave and get slaughtered by the hockey mask wearing killer. Turns out that this might be a dream. In fact it’s been years since Corey Feldman (SPOILER ALERT) had his way with Jason. Now he’s a grown up played by John Shepherd. Trouble is he’s stuck in a nut house. Jason returns from the grave and sends the troubled teens to a violent end. At least we think he has. Someone with a machete and a hockey mask is slashing away. The best victim is the new wave girl with the funky hair and Walkman. “New Beginnings” gives the background on this production. They went out of their way to hide the fact that this was another Friday 13th movie. They didn’t want the fans to think they were ripped off at the death of Jason. You won’t want to watch this first since there’s a montage showing everyone who gets killed in the film. It’s a major spoiler. There’s another installment of “Lost Tales From Camp Blood” and “Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited.” These two shorts are goofy as they ad to the weirdness of Jason’s history.

Friday 13th Part VI: Jason Lives - Deluxe Edition really does revive Jason. Corey Feldman’s character is now played by Thom Matthews. He and a pal dig up Jason’s grave to cremate the body. This plan goes severely wrong. Jason ends up making a major comeback. Hopefully that clue didn’t ruin the truth of Part V. But now Tommy and Jason get to battle once more. Although it’s not as fun since it’s not Corey Feldman being chased around. There’s more killing and carnage. Do not mistake this DVD for the Baby Einstein series. The DVD contains various scenes that were slashed to get the R-rating. Why couldn’t Tommy just let Jason rot in his grave?

All three boxes have cool 3-D graphics on the covers. They’re perfect for decorating your veal pen.

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