Kevin Costner is finally back in the world of sports movies. With a filmography that includes “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “For the Love of the Game,” and, my personal favorite, “Tin Cup,” Costner is arguably the premier sports-movie actor.
Continuing this legacy, Costner stars in the upcoming film “Draft Day,” and on Sunday, April 6, University of California, Santa Barbara’s Carsey-Wolfe Center premiered an advance screening of it at Pollock Theater. The film was followed by a Q&A and reception with director Ivan Reitman and two producers Tom Pollock and Joe Medjuck.
However, despite Costner’s long-awaited return, it would be smart to temper expectations; “Draft Day” is not quite of the same caliber as the classics of Costner’s heyday. Still, the film is notable for its insight into the life of an NFL general manager in what many consider the most important day of the season.
Costner stars as Cleveland Browns’ general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. on the day of the NFL draft. Using the draft as his medium, Sonny has to figure out a way to save his job, the team, and the city of Cleveland–all while dealing with the death of his father’s, a pregnant girlfriend (Jennifer Garner), and an obnoxious coach (Dennis Leary).
Despite the improbable romance of Costner and Garner, there is a feeling of authenticity in “Draft Day.” Reitman credits this effect to the active assistance of both the Cleveland Browns and the NFL as a whole, as the crew had access to both the Browns’ facilities and the actual 2013 NFL draft in New York City.
Because of this, the film features cameos from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, real members of the Browns’ organization, the entire draft day television crew (including the always great Chris Berman), and a small role by Houston Texans’ running back Arian Foster. “Draft Day” delivers insight into the minds of those working frantically behind the scenes and the players who do their best to remain calm on one of the most important day of their careers.
In my sports-driven mind, the movie would have been better off focusing more on the workings of the football evaluations and general managing, and less on the interpersonal relations of Weaver. Nevertheless, by the end, the slow build-up works out well enough to draw most of the audience in for the final hectic minutes of the draft.
After the screening, Rietman stuck around for a short Q&A session, along with executive producer Tom Pollock (whose parents provided the namesake for Pollock Theater), and producer Joe Medjuck. Reitman is famous for his work in some of the greatest 80s movies, including “Ghostbusters” and “Stripes,” but his first movie as a director is “No Strings Attached.” “Draft Day” is only his second movie since then, and is a marked improvement in quality–even if only for the fact that Ashton Kutcher was not involved.
Rietman’s answers centered on his switch from comedies to sports drama.
“I don’t think about whether it’s funny or not, just if it’s a good script,” said Reichman. “By the time I finished reading it, I knew that I would be directing it.”
The producers were more focused on the tribulations of marketing a football movie to a foreign crowd.
“Almost 70 percent of the average revenue for movies these days comes from abroad,” said Pollock, “but when you have a great script you have to make a movie because you think it can be good. Not because you think you might make money.” That, compounded with the relatively low shooting cost, made for an easy sell.
Reitman, Pollock, and Medjuck all live in the Santa Barbara area and stayed around after the show for a wine and cheese reception, where most of the conversation was about Costner and how pleasant he is to work with. “Draft Day” hits theaters this Friday, April 11.
Photo Courtesy of Georges Biard