During the 1970s, the Philadelphia Eagles endure a string of losing seasons and irate fans. To spice things up for his organization, newly hired Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) decides to hold open tryouts in 1976 for a spot on the pro football team's roster. Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) is a 30-year-old bartender who has just lost his part-time teaching job. He had gone to Saint Joseph's University (then known as St. Joseph's College) on a track scholarship. Disgusted with his professional failure from his wife, Sharon (Lola Glaudini), abruptly leaves him, for taking all of their furniture with her and leaving a note saying that he never will be anything in the world.
With the support of all his friends from the neighborhood, Papale goes out for an open tryout practice; catching the attention of coach Vermeil, he is invited to come along to training camp. Papale eventually makes the team, and after a dismal display in the opening game of the season, he recovers a fumble and returns it for a touchdown in the second regular season game versus the New York Giants, which leads to Vermeil's first victory with the Eagles.
Differences from the true story
In reality, Papale had been playing semi-professional and pro football for several years, first with the semi-pro Aston Green Knights of the Seaboard Football League and then two seasons with the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League, one of the NFL's rival leagues on the level of the AFL and the USFL. Papale was a standout special teams star for the Bell, who played at Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium.
Papale did participate in an open tryout before earning his spot on the Bell roster, which the filmmakers used as a model for the tryout shown in the movie. For the Eagles, Papale actually participated in a private workout that was by invitation only.
The opening scene of the movie features the Eagles' 31-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on December 7, 1975. One of the fans makes a comment that the Eagles lost to a team worse than they were. In '75, the Bengals actually won 11 of 14 regular season games and were the Wild Card team in the AFC.
The fumble recovery depicted in the climactic scene did take place, but Papale's touchdown did not count, as under NFL rules at the time, the ball could not be advanced. It was still a key play in the victory for the Eagles. Papale never scored a regular-season touchdown in the NFL.
On the film's DVD, Papale appears with the director in the Director Commentary portion. Papale makes no mention of these differences in his commentary.
The preseason/tryout scenes were filmed at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Central High School Lancers field during the July/August months of 2005. (For 13 seasons, 1958-1970, Franklin Field was the home field of the Eagles.) The crew used their locker room and field. The Lancers, who had a preseason, used Fairmount Park in West Philadelphia during this time. The carnival scenes were filmed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in South Philadelphia at 2329 South Third Street. Some of the street scenes were filmed on location in the city. The remainder of the film was filmed in a former aircraft carrier parts warehouse on Langley Avenue in the Philadelphia Naval Business Center. The crew shared this facility with the floats for the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.
- Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale
- Greg Kinnear as Dick Vermeil
- Elizabeth Banks as Janet Cantrell
- Kevin Conway as Frank Papale
- Michael Rispoli as Max Cantrell
- Kirk Acevedo as Tommy
- Dov Davidoff as Johnny
- Michael Kelly as Pete
- Sal Darigo as Mick
- Nicoye Banks as TJ Banks
- Turron Kofi Alleyne as Ronnie Sampson
- Cosmo DeMatteo as Dean German
- Michael Mulheren as AC Craney
- Michael Nouri as Leonard Tose
- Anthony Masucci as Josh Barnes
- Mike Kerley as Tom Landry
- Lola Glaudini as Sharon Papale
In opening weekend the movie made approximately $17,031,122 domestically. As of November 16, 2006, the movie has generated an estimated $57,806,952 domestically.
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