Big-budget soccer film set to roll in St. Louis

Category: The Game of Their Lives News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: May 19, 2003 | Publication: St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Author: Joe Williams
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The stars have aligned. A long-rumored feature film about the St. Louis-dominated soccer team that scored a historic upset in the 1950 World Cup will begin shooting here next month.

At a press conference in St. Louis yesterday, "The Game of Their Lives" was touted as the biggest-budgeted film ever to be made in Missouri. Starring up-and-comers Wes Bentley and Gerard Butler, the million production will employ scores of local tradespeople and as many as 2,000 film extras during its five-week stay in St. Louis.

The press conference was held at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in the Hill neighborhood. That neighborhood produced four of the five St. Louisans on a hastily assembled team that would defeat Britain in the biggest upset in soccer history. Among the attendees was local soccer legend Harry Keough, one of the surviving members of the 11-person U.S. squad. Also attending were St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and the creative nucleus of the film: director David Anspaugh and writer-producer Angelo Pizzo.

Anspaugh and Pizzo are the team behind the crowd-pleasing sports films "Hoosiers" and "Rudy." "The Game of Their Lives" is a similarly inspirational true story. When the ragtag American team arrived in Brazil for the World Cup tournament, it was given little chance against the powerhouse British. Yet the U.S. prevailed 1-0 on a goal by Joe Gaetjens, a Haitian immigrant who had been working as a dishwasher in New York City.

The screenplay focuses heavily on the St. Louis contingent of Keough, Frank Borghi, Frank Wallace, Gino Pariani and Charley Columbo.

Until last month, the long-planned adaptation of the Geoffrey Douglas book was slated to film in Canada (where many Hollywood productions benefit from the favorable exchange rate). But Anspaugh convinced his financiers, Crusader Entertainment, that to reproduce the look and feel of St. Louis circa 1950, it was imperative to shoot the movie here.

When shooting commences in mid-June, many of the houses and businesses on the Hill will be repainted and redecorated to capture the post-World War II ambiance. Other locales in St. Louis will be used to simulate New York.

In preproduction trips to St. Louis, Anspaugh discovered that one of the benefits of filming here is that so many locals are adept soccer players. But even locals with two left feet may find themselves on screen. The producers are seeking 2,000 people to work as extras, and they are holding an open casting call from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, May 31, at Shaw Elementary School, 5329 Columbia Avenue. No previous acting or sports experience is required, but attendees should bring a recent snapshot of themselves.