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Kevin Costner and 'Draft Day' co-stars tackle football recruiting

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“Draft Day” (directed by Ivan Reitman) takes place on the day of the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver (played by Kevin Costner) has the opportunity to save football in Cleveland when he trades for the number-one pick. He must quickly decide what he's willing to sacrifice in pursuit of perfection as the lines between his personal and professional life become blurred on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with dreams of playing in the NFL. Here is what Costner, Reitman and “Draft Day” co-stars Jennifer Garner, Terry Crews, Denis Leary and Chadwick Boseman said at a pre-Super Bowl XLVIII press conference for “Draft Day” in New York City.

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Kevin, “Draft Day” is your first football film. What took so long?

Costner: Well, I didn’t know I was going to make the other ones either. I actually made “Field of Dreams” and “Bull Durham” back-to-back, which wasn’t exactly a good career move when everybody thought baseball was box-office poison. I like the idea of playing football. I think the window had just about closed on me being a player in one of those games, unless something has to happen. So when Ivan [Reitman, director of “Draft Day”] came to me, I was really happy. I wouldn’t have been in it if I didn’t think it had a chance to be great.

As much as I’d like to have been in a football movie, I like football, women like football too much to make one that doesn’t make sense that took a step backwards. And this one took its place right along with, for me, “For the Love of the Game,” “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams.” I felt that “Draft Day” had a chance to be classic. I was really happy seeing the movie because I know how much we all care about our game.

One of the things that made “Draft Day” so believable was that real NFL teams’ names and jerseys were featured in the movie. Ivan, how did those NFL partnerships come about?

Reitman: When I got the script of “Draft Day,” I was very lucky. When it first arrived, I read it in the middle of the night. I said, “Oh, man! This is a really amazing script, except made if we get the National Football League involved.”

It wasn’t one of those movies that made up the names of the teams and the players and everything. It had to live in the real world. We sent the script to the NFL. And the good news is they liked it as much as we all did. After considerable negotiations, they said, “Let’s go do this. It’ll be good for everybody.”

You filmed “Draft Day” at the real NFL draft. What was that like?

Reitman: There’s no way to recreate what happens at Radio City [Music] Hall during those two or three days of the draft. We knew we had to get some of our crew there and shoot some of it. They were extraordinary. They gave us cars to arrive at the red carpet. I had my own monitors and my own crew within the auditorium.

I asked all 32 reps at the table if they would wear the same thing they wore the first night during the afternoon of the second day, so we could keep our continuity going. And every team complied. It was really a wonderful combination of people who just wanted to get it right, from the National Football League to all 32 teams.

Jennifer, how did you prepare for you role in “Draft Day”?

Garner: I play Ali, and she is head of the salary cap. The thing I love about Ali is that, as head of the salary cap, she has to be a lawyer, she has to be a business mind, she has to have the football mind. And she is someone who worked her way up from an intern, just because she loved the game so much.

[She says the press conference moderator] We all just jumped on you when you said a salary capologist couldn’t look like me because Megan Rogers of the Cleveland Browns is the prettiest woman in any room, and she’s the smartest woman in any room, and she does not suffer fools for a second, but she does it all with lipstick and a smile. So I basically copied her. I haunted her. I took pictures of her desk.

And she would hunt me down and say, “Those are confidential! Everything is confidential.” And I said, “I don’t care what it says. I just want my character’s desk to look like yours, with the same Post-Its.” So I just bugged her, and she was very patient with me.

Denis, you play Cleveland Browns head coach Coach Penn, who sometimes clashes with Sonny Weaver in “Draft Day.” How did you prepare for the role?

Leary: This is no bullsh*t. I am a huge sports fan. I’m a huge fan of sports movies. I’m a huge fan of westerns. It pretty much goes without saying that I’m a huge Costner fan. While we were doing “Rescue Me” (I can’t remember what season), we actually did a run about Kevin Costner that lasted about three episodes. The women and the men were discussing Costner.

So when Ivan called me and said, “Costner football movie,” I basically said, “I’m in.” I didn’t care if this thing sucks. I’m doing it. I just wanted to be in a sports movie with Costner.

I worked with [Dustin] Hoffman and [Robert] De Niro in the same movie. I did a Clint Eastwood movie that nobody saw, but I don’t give a f*ck. If somebody called you and said, “We’re doing a Costner movie,” I don’t care if it’s a western [or not]. Ultimately, it would be a sports western with Costner, which would be like the Abner Doubleday story.

And then I read [the “Draft Day” script]. I have to tell you, the script — Ivan mentioned it — was really, really unbelievably well-written, the script I read. I was like, “Not only am I in a Costner movie, but it’s a really good script. So now we have to make sure we don’t f*ck it up.”

It was fortunate for us to not only have Ivan at the helm but the Browns people. When we were there, we went to that training facility, I think they were all like, “Oh, the movie star people are coming.” They didn’t understand we were going to suck the life out of them, in terms of information.

We took over. The coach was there. Jennifer grabbed her girl. We were all looking at their offices, their shoes. And then, after a while, they were like, “OK, we’re done, right?” It was really great.

Chadwick, “Draft Day” is your second football movie. You also starred in the baseball movie “42.” Did you play both sports when you were growing up? Did you have a favorite?

Boseman: I was more of a basketball player, a point guard. I played a little football and Little League baseball, but I was more on the hardwood.

Terry, as a former NFL player, can you comment on how the NFL draft has changed over the years?

Crews: It’s funny because I was drafted in 1991, in the 11th round. That was a long time ago. It was so bad that I thought the draft was over. And then I got a call to let me know I was drafted. [He laughs.]

But I was Johnny Hustle. I actually made the practice squad. Once I got through camp and got on the roster, I literally played on six teams in seven years, even in NFL Europe. I have to say that the NFL got me ready for entertainment because sometimes you get knocked out cold, and you’ve got to get back up.

But the difference now I see that they are only going seven rounds, and they know exactly what they want. The free agents have a bigger shot now. Before, if you were a free agent, you were way at the end. But now, free agency, no matter what, anything can happen from anywhere. And I think guys have a better shot now.

For more info: "Draft Day" website

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