Sept. 10, 2006
RUTHERFORD ON FILM: McG Interview-- ‘We Are Marshall’ Trailer Receives Standing Ovation from 26,000 Fans During First Live Public Showing at Joan C. Edwards Stadium
By Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Critic
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The red-haired filmmaker who before kickoff took the microphone as a celebrity cheerleader, then introduced the trailer for “your film,” adding, “There’s 75 people who are not on the field today, but you can bet that they are with us, they are going to watch this , and they are going to enjoy this and feel a part of it.”
A quick sampling of viewers brought responses of “phenomenal” and “dynamic” to the anticipated “cold chills.” At least as significantly, Jim Sturm said, “It represented the city very well and it speaks for a lot of people.”
In fact, Keith Spears, MU vice president of communications, who along with some university decision makers viewed a “rough cut” of the finished product at a private screening at Marquee Cinemas Thursday, September 7, praised McG as a “master at telling the story and bringing it [to the screen] with drama and heart. I’m elated.”
Those who watched the unfinished version were those who “early on [decided] Marshall would go along with this [movie].” Again, Spears smiled and beamed, “To a person, each one felt that the director had nailed it.”
|Co-producer Mary Viola, who was responsible for turning WB on to the untold MU story, HNN's Tony Rutheford
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HNN: I understand Warner Bros. believes so strongly in the picture that they added money to the film’s budget so you could return to Huntington.
McG: I wanted to get back here and shoot the first home game and see how this program that came so close to not being here at all flourished into such a fantastic outfit that it’s a tremendous sort of pride for the whole community. We wanted to come back and shoot the game and capture a couple of bit pieces to capture the vib of the campus while we were here .
The picture is just about done. We showed it to Keith Spears, President Kopp, Keith Morehouse, and we really had some positive feedback. Lot of tears, a lot of smiles… we’re very, very proud. It’s a testimony to the strength and caring of the community that’s given so much and its reflected on the screen. This movie belongs to the people of WV, people of Huntington, and certainly Marshall University.
HNN: What most pleased about the film?
McG : Without reservation, the support of the community. A lot of fun things happen in Los Angeles, a lot of fun things happen in NY, I’m most touched and most pleased with the warmth, love and generosity received from the town of Huntington. We want to give back to the community and the university. I’m hoping the whole world will hear the we are Marshall chant for a long long time to come.
HNN: Did you expect this type of response when you started the picture?
McG: No, I don’t think it would be realistic to expect so much warmth and support… we really got it, top to bottom, feeling good. We rested on the shoulders of the city and the city lifted us up. All of the men and women gave us so much love and support. That’s the reason the film turned out so well. I just can’t thank you enough, Huntington.
HNN: What about the feedback from the focus groups, was this anticipated?
McG: It was better than we could ever expect. The feedback has been off the charts. It’s one of the best testing picture in recent memory … those people have no affiliation with Marshall or Huntington, they are just tough movie critics, but so far so good , people are responding to the strength of the story of courage , of humanity, [of] overcoming the odds . Everybody likes that. Everybody wants to believe that’s who we are going to be when we experience tough times and challenges. My hat’s off to Huntington.
While sitting in the press box, an older gentleman heard me discussing the film. Although I did not catch his name, what he told me captures the essence of the Marshall spirit. Back when the football team won its first championship, he displayed a banner that ended up in the yearbook. It simply read: “MU 1970 Football Team…This One’s For You!”
And, Mr. McG, there will be 75 spirits that gather with you next year when your filmmaking team take their seats at an annual ceremony that honors the “Academy’s” best, particularly since you have chosen to honor them with a heavenly poster than recalls the classic, soulful, “Heaven Can Wait,” that had a similar background accompanied by an angel with wings in the foreground.