Stars flock to soccer film’s première

Category: The Game of Their Lives News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: April 17, 2005 | Publication: St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Author: Joe Williams
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Hold the champagne and caviar. Bring on the Budweiser and toasted ravioli.

Opposites attracted at the Esquire Theater on Sunday for the area premiere of the soccer film "The Game of Their Lives." Past and present, St. Louis and Hollywood, America and the United Kingdom were represented when the international cast shared the spotlight with some of the heroes portrayed in the movie.

"The Game of Their Lives" recounts the true story of the U.S. World Cup soccer team of 1950. That hastily assembled team, dominated by Italian-American war veterans from the Hill in St. Louis, defeated the heavily favored English team in the most famous upset in the history of the sport. The movie was filmed largely in St. Louis in the summer of 2003. It will open here and in selected other cities on Friday.

Scottish actor Gerard Butler, the star of the recent film adaptation of "The Phantom of the Opera," drew the loudest cheers as he emerged with his co-stars from a stretch limousine. The dressed-down heartthrob was happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the fans, some of whom had come from as far away as Philadelphia. Although another premiere is scheduled for later this week in Washington, Butler said he chose instead to come to this event to honor the surviving members of the team. When he spotted former goalkeeper Frank Borghi, whom Butler portrays in the film, he planted a kiss on his forehead. "This guy's the real star," Butler said.

It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that the cast and crew became surrogate St. Louisans during their seven weeks in town. South African actor Jay Rodan, who plays the late Frank "Pee-Wee" Wallace, said several of the actors became so fond of the city that they flew here for the premiere at their own expense, including the Australian brothers Costas and Louis Mandylor.

Before the screening, director David Anspaugh said he hoped the audience would be more participatory than the one which attended the Indiana premiere of his movie "Hoosiers." Inside one of the two auditoriums that were screening the film, the actors shared a row and tossed an old soccer ball. As the house lights dimmed, Butler and Costas Mandylor jumped to their feet to start a group wave.

More than 800 tickets were sold for the event, which was a fund-raiser for Catholic Youth Charities, St. Ambrose Church, which is prominently featured in the film, and Cinema St. Louis, which co-presented the event with the Missouri Film Commission and the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.

After the screening, Jerry Jones of the film commission started a question-and-answer session by thanking some of the state legislators in attendance for the tax credits that help attract Hollywood productions to Missouri.

Anspaugh thanked the more than 2,000 area residents who worked as extras on the movie. He then apologized that in his rush to finish the film in time for the premiere, it slipped his notice that narrator Patrick Stewart called the residents of the city "St. Louisians."