Varsity Blues (Paramount Pictures) brings together novice actors with a preteen idol and Academy Award-winning actor. But on the set, the lines separating the groups blur, the Hollywood hierarchy disappears and the cast members are friends instead of co-stars.
Set in a small town in Texas, Varsity Blues follows the local high school football team as it vies for its 23rd division title. But in the Lone Star State town, football is more than a game, and those involved in it are more than players. The idolized coach garners enormous power from his position. The quarterback gains more fame than Troy Aikman, and if you’re not on the team, you’re not important.
Coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight, Enemy of the State) thrives on winning. When star quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker, Pleasantville) suffers a season-ending injury, Coach Kilmer turns to second-string quarterback Jonathan Moxon (James Van Der Beek, “Dawson’s Creek”). In a town that breeds football players with a must-win attitude, Moxon lacks the drive and the inherent obsession. But now Coach Kilmer, with his stringent schedule, turns to the indifferent Moxon to lead the team.
During telephone interviews with five of the cast members and director Brian Robbins, the cast and director reiterated one concept numerous times – making the film was an amazing experience. No one thoroughly discussed his or her role. No one focused entirely on the film. Instead, they talked about the closeness of the cast and their respect for their co-stars.
“I really enjoyed with all of these people on the film,” Voight said. “When I walk onto a set, there’s a little bit of expectation. Everybody looks at me like I know what I’m doing, but I can make mistakes just like everyone. It doesn’t take long before everyone realizes that you’re just a human being and you’re just an actor with a certain amount of experience.”
While Voight claims to be just another cast member, his acclaim and talent are undeniable. And although he became part of the Varsity Blues family, he influenced his young co-stars.
“He was like a big brother on the set,” said Ron Lester, who plays a member of the football team. “He was always full of advice and right there for us, even after the movie.”
“When he walked on the set, he changed the whole dynamic for the characters,” Robbins said. “He was in character. If you were going to be in a scene with him, you better come ready and you better come prepared – that was a great thing to have on the set.”
Although the cast describes the set as a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, the actors also acknowledge the hard work and emotional drain of making a film. While it may be fun, it is still a job with a purpose.
“Every day is a challenge,” Robbins said. “Every day you walk on the set is a challenge to get what you want on screen. You just hope the gods are with you.”Varsity Blues opens in theaters Friday.