What We Know About 'Crooked Arrows'
As very important people go, the producers of the lacrosse feature film "Crooked Arrows" made liberal use of the term this weekend, inviting several of us from Lacrosse Magazine to a VIP reception Friday and on set Saturday for filming in Danvers, Mass.
Full disclosure: US Lacrosse, my employer, has endorsed "Crooked Arrows" and offered promotional support of the movie. But even if I had not been paid to do it, I would have jumped at the chance to see "Superman Returns" star Brandon Routh work his newfound lacrosse chops as coach of the fictional, but believable Crooked Arrows lacrosse team of underdog Native Americans.
Or to sneak a peak as Crooked Arrows players Ty, Miles and Lyle Thompson as they demonstrated the kind of offensive wizardry we can expect from Albany next spring.
Or to watch Johns Hopkins assistant Jamieson Koesterer channel his inner Dave Pietramala as he plays the coach of the film's bad guys, the Covenant Academy.
The festivities started Friday with a party at executive producer Jeffrey McCormick's home in the swanky Back Bay haunts of Boston. Among those spotted: lacrosse legend Gary Gait, Syracuse coach John Desko, Virginia coach Dom Starsia, Brown coach Lars Tiffany, Harvard coach Chris Wojcik, MLL commissioner David Gross, Denver Outlaws and Colorado Mammoth star Connor Martin (he of "ConBroChill" fame), Dr. Miles Harrison (father of Kyle Harrison and great lacrosse contributor) and Iroquois artisan Alf Jacques. Luminaries like West Genesee (N.Y.) High School coach Mike Messere, Lafayette (N.Y.) coach Kevin Gale and Tufts coach Mike Daly would later join them on set Saturday.
Producer J. Todd Harris showed us two five-minute clips compiled from the first four-and-a-half days of filming, a quarter of the way into the film's production. The first clip provided comic relief, to show "it's not just serious business out there," Harris said. The natives' stick skills and dance moves made the reel (the stick spinning like a clock hand on one player's helmet made for pretty cool cinematography), as did an impromptu, freestyle rap session from one of the Covenant Academy characters.
But it was the second clip, fashioned from the real, on-camera product, which fueled belief among observers that this movie could do for lacrosse what Disney's "Mighty Ducks" did for hockey.
Yes, it's formulaic, but in a good way. The Crooked Arrows are a good-for-nothing lacrosse team who start off a punch line — "They better mail that helmet back to Syracuse," the announcer quips after one of the players suffers a decapitating body check — and undergo a transformation under a coach (Routh) who finds a reason to reengage in the sport after his senior year meltdown as Coventry's star player in the state championship game.
Routh never played lacrosse, "except for a week with a plastic stick in seventh grade," he told me Friday. (He should probably call "Superman Returns" co-star Kate Bosworth, who played in high school.) But he liked this script's Native American undertones. "There have been sports movies, but this mines a new genre."
The clip revealed a dramatic locker room scene in which Routh's character, Logan, tells the Crooked Arrows, "We play to honor our ancestors who were buried with their sticks. We play to honor our grandchildren, who will be given sticks when they're born."
It was fun watching Koesterer embrace his role as antagonist coach — the Jack Reilly to the Mighty Ducks' Gordon Bombay, if you will. "Don't ever let up, no matter what you do!" he barks at his Coventry Academy players in one scene. It reminded me of a "Mighty Ducks" line delivered by Lane Smith, as Reilly tells his Hawks hockey players, "It's not worth winning if you can't win big!"
Saturday marked the final day filming lacrosse action. It drew 1,500 extras, including hundreds of Native American fans from the Six Nations in New York and Ontario. The lacrosse was realistic. Mark Ellis of Sports Studio worked with Koesterer to draft 35 legitimate lacrosse plays, including one we saw Saturday in which a Crooked Arrows midfielder (with serious flow, as his hair reaches his knees, and a wooden stick) throws a behind-the-back pass to the crease for his teammate to produce a between-the-legs goal.
Though "Crooked Arrows" is set for a spring 2012 theatrical release, the project will require continued fundraising. Producers must meet the $2 million mark for distribution, in addition to the $5 million raised for production. Reebok is a presenting sponsor of the film, which has also been endorsed by US Lacrosse, the MLL, MetroLacrosse, the National Indian Gaming Association, the NLL, Inside Lacrosse, LaxWorld and LacrossePlayground.com.