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Kevin Costner has high hopes for 'Draft Day' as his next classic sports movie


Kevin Costner knows a thing or two about making a popular sports movie.

He believes his latest venture taking the games to the silver screen will be his next home run. Or in this case, his first touchdown.

“Draft Day” will be released April 11 with Costner starring as Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the Cleveland Browns.

“It offered a real interesting take,” Costner said Monday on a conference call. “Something that occurred in one day could be made to be that exciting.

“When I watched ‘Draft Day,’ it takes its place among those movies.”

For Costner fans, “Draft Day” will have to be awfully good to be in the same league as “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “Tin Cup” and “For Love of the Game.” Costner’s characters have also developed an iconic quality.

Catcher Crash Davis toils anonymously while chasing the minor league home run record in “Bull Durham.” Ray Kinsella hears a voice and turns his Iowa cornfields into a baseball diamond for his dad and legends of the game — all deceased — to play again. Roy McAvoy goes from driving range golf pro to losing the U.S. Open on the final hole in “Tin Cup.” And Billy Chapel ends his career by pitching a perfect game at Yankee Stadium in “For Love of the Game.”

Costner admitted his playing days are almost behind him, so he moved into the front office for “Draft Day.” Under pressure from the Browns owner, Weaver acquires the No. 1 pick as the movie focuses on the behind-the-scenes chaos common in the NFL in the hours before the selection is made.

The NFL gave its endorsement, which allowed famed director Ivan Reitman to use authentic jerseys, along with appearances by commissioner Roger Goodell and other league personalities and broadcasters. Reitman was producer of “Animal House” and director of “Ghostbusters” and “Stripes.”

Much of it was filmed at Browns headquarters in Berea and around Northeast Ohio, and Costner’s appreciation for Cleveland grew. But not for the three-day marathon of the draft, which will run May 8-10 this year.

“It’s almost like a national holiday, which I can’t quite understand,” he said. “I’m a fan, not a fanatic. I’m absolutely more interested in Sundays.

“It’s almost a little bit too much … the combine. I’m not a fantasy football guy, either. I do not like it, don’t believe in it. I’m not in the majority, which means I’m kind of out of touch.”

Costner said some of his close friends in Hollywood went to St. Ignatius High School, so he’s well aware of the franchise’s recent struggles.

“I watched that organization since I was little. I remember Leroy Kelly running, remember that team,” he said. “I never equated Cleveland as a joke it’s been made to be.

“Yeah, I do root a little bit. People who follow the NFL, as a rule, root for a team so loyal and that in their minds suffered so much.”

“Draft Day” is different from Costner’s previous sports movies because the action is away from the field. The draft happens in the offseason, and the action is phone calls, trade proposals, internal debate and finally a decision.

But Costner feels the new film has the same core characteristics of his successful sports movies — and all good movies, really.

“It starts with the written word,” he said. “I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but don’t put too much sports action in it. They’re filmed in a different way, it kind of spins us out. You need people that look athletic. You can’t out-act sports. Even a not-athlete will be able to detect it.

“But they still have to be about guys and girls, why they can get along, why they can’t and why at the end of the day they have to be together.”

Jennifer Garner portrays Ali Parker, the Browns’ capologist and Weaver’s love interest. Costner said he didn’t need to study NFL general managers to learn his role because he pays close attention to the league.

Ray Farmer is Cleveland’s real-life rookie GM after being promoted when CEO Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi were fired. Costner has a strong opinion on what makes a quality GM.

“You have a complete understanding of the game,” Costner said. “Stats aren’t the only thing a man is measured by — third down, fourth quarter, there’s a lot of stuff in the way you look at an athlete.

“It’s a hard job. If these guys don’t play well, don’t produce, if too many get hurt, you’re probably not going to have a job. It’s almost like politicians – I wish they would make decisions on one term in office. GMs have to get out of the way of politics, get out of the way of long term, do what they think is right for the team.”

A fan of Tate

Texans Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster got the role of All-American running back Ray Jennings in the movie, despite not having much of an acting background.

Foster gave his real-life scouting report on his former backup Ben Tate, who signed with the Browns last month.

“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Foster said. “He’s always been a really good running back in the NFL. It’s unfortunate he was behind me for a while. He’s going to be a great addition to Cleveland, they’re going to love him up there. He’s a very skilled athlete.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.

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