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  Director Interview

DOWSE Guide to the Movies
by Tony Lee editor of Pigasus Press

Any Given Sunday:
syndicated interview with Oliver Stone

You managed to make your football drama Any Given Sunday without the involvement or endorsement of the NFL, which seems no mean feat.

"That's quite a conspiracy there, I think. The NFL are the bad guys in all this, they have all the money and they hire these lawyers and accountants to protect their billions of dollars and their clean cut image. Here's a movie in which you would imagine the fans really know all this stuff is going on, it's not a big secret, it's obvious stuff. But they're saying to me that it doesn't exist. So they gave us a lot of problems, we had to pay more money, we had to make our own uniforms, our own look, we beg, borrowed and stole every stadium we could get. We didn't even know we had the Dallas Stadium until three to four weeks before we were going to shoot there. They went to the colleges behind our backs, and I know I can't prove this, but something's happening, it's a conspiracy of silence."

So you had that to put up with as well as the logistics of making a convincing sports movie?

"It was interesting, like warfare. A survival of the fittest conflict. There were a lot of injuries, broken bones, stuff like that. Players came and went, quite a few guys left, more came on. There was a mutiny against me one night, because it was three o'clock and it was raining, and they all wanted to go home. We had a very tough shoot, it was 65 days, and we didn't have enough money to make it to be honest, so we all took big pay cuts and we really killed ourselves to make the picture work in that time. It was as tough a picture as I've ever worked on."

How long has this idea been in your head?

"In 1982 I wrote a treatment for Charles Bronson, believe it or not, as an ageing linebacker trying to hold on. I don't know if he got a chance to read it, but it was a great story about a man fighting time. I wrote it when I was in my 20s, so I obviously had that theme before I got old. So eventually Lawrence Taylor, the legendary linebacker with the Giants, played that role and that worked out better. It grew and grew from this three headed hydra at one point, with three scripts, we were trying to get all the storylines in."

Wasn't Sean 'Puffy' Combs cast in a lead role at one point?

"Puffy was the key to making the movie, because Al said he could play the coach. It made sense to me to go to him, because he's played a cop and a criminal, you put the two together and you've got a coach. A coach steals all the time, he steals to win. Warner Bros wanted the same formula as Devil's Advocate, put an older man with a younger man or a younger actress, so you hedge your bets. That's the way they think, and it's their money they have a right to do it the way they want. Puffy was the guy at that moment. He threw the ball well, after a lot of practice, he improved as an actor. But it really was a case of tremendous pressure on both sides. We delayed four times, he had scheduling conflicts, he lost his tour of Japan, he lost a lot of money, a lot of momentum. He tried. But it just was too long a wait. But God was kind because he brought me Jamie Foxx."

How good is Jamie, do you think?

"I think Jamie has some new moves on guys you've seen before. I don't know about England, but R&B and various versions of rap are the thing of the new culture in America. That song was good, in fact we put it on the album. And the video is so strong and good that I put it on the DVD special selection."

You've got to look long and hard in the film to find a pleasant character, haven't you?

"I get some tough times about the women in the movie, but all those five women were real. They might not be pretty, but neither are the men. Al Pacino you like, but he's got plenty of flaws in that movie. He makes Dennis Quaid play, he signs a waiver for Lawrence Taylor to go back out and maybe get his head busted. Jimmy Woods implicates him in the drugs scandal. Al's no saint. Nobody is, everybody's grey."

Were there a lot of injuries suffered while making the movie?

"There were injuries, a few busted bones and sprains. I couldn't keep track of who came and went, but it was very well run, like a military unit. It was very well run by Allan Graf and Mark Ellis. They were good. They realised they had to play twelve or fifteen hours a day. This was not a normal two-hour football game. Also we had actors mixed in with real players, and the real players would run up to some of the actors, some of them are six foot five or six, and can run forty yards in under five seconds, big guys, they popped Jamie a few times but he didn't complain. He hung in there. It was like the actors were against the team, there was a little bit of that tension in there. Showing them a little taste of what they go through for far less money than these actor guys."

How about your little Hitchcockian cameo as the sports broadcaster?

"I admired Hitchcock for appearing in his own films, it's a very good trademark. It's a singularity. Other directors do it a lot, far more than I do. I think I'm trying something in myself, I've been doing experiments. Not that I want to star in my films, but I may want to play roles, like Truffaut did. There's a sober realism about him that I liked. It was very real. So I did it as an addendum at the end of the film, in case we needed it as a cut away, and we needed the words anyway. The idea was that I was a second rate, boozy, broken down Howard Cosell figure. So we did it, and it was fun."

Any Given Sunday is released on rental video, and DVD retail, by Warner Home Video on 27 November 2000

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