On Nov. 2 seven football writers who had been flown to Hollywood to appear in the remake of The Longest Yard stood outside Sony Pictures Sound Stage 22--on the same lot where The Wizard of Oz was filmed 66 years ago. In short order we were introduced to an unassuming guy in a yellow Tshirt and Costanza-like gray sweatpants. Adam Sandler, the star of the movie, put aside his shrimp and couscous and welcomed us to our scene. "Thanks for legitimizing the movie," he said.
Hope he's kidding, I thought. I'd never even been in a school play; the only acting my six peers and I had done came on fall Sundays, when we tried to impersonate Grantland Rice. We were here to play writers covering a football game at a Texas prison between guards and convicts, led by wacky renegade Paul Crewe (Sandler). Our assignment: Pretend to watch some action and emote on cue. Early in our 45-minute "day," director Peter Segal came up and said, "Peter, I want you to look onto the field and say, let's see, say, 'One thing remains the same: That Paul Crewe's still the goofiest quarterback I've ever seen.'"
A line? I have a line! In a movie!
This poor movie.
"Action!" said Segal. I said my line with tsk-tsk skepticism. Sandler walked from behind the curtain where he was watching on a monitor. He winked, gave me a thumbs-up and said, "Solid."
Then in unison we said, "I think he broke his friggin' neck," a nod to the famous line from the 1974 original, and I had another line, about the fix being in. Then Segal gave us instructions about a scene in which the convicts, who are starting to win the crowd over, make a big play. "You guys stand up and start high-fiving like 'Yeah! Great play!'" he said.
I piped up, "Uhh, excuse me? Peter? What if we would never, ever say that in a real press box in a million years?"
Segal and Sandler huddled. "O.K.," Sandler said. "Don't do it. Just do what you do." So we just looked surprised, really surprised. Fat chance that'll make it in. But all of us will be happy just to be on screen for a millisecond and get our names in the credits. "You know the greatest thing about this experience?" said Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, as we minivanned to the airport for the trip home. "We all got our own trailers with our names in the window." Yes, even stars for 45 minutes get those.
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (KING)
COURTESY PARAMOUNT PICTURES (FILM SCENE)
The remake features Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, Sandler (from left) ... and our man King.