Lights, Camera, Football: “My All American” Films at UT

 

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Vintage cars, cheerleaders twirling in long skirts, and co-eds walking to class in letter jackets and dresses: If you visited campus this summer, you might have thought you entered a time warp. That’s because for two weeks in May and June, the UT campus was transported to the 1960s for the filming of My All American.

Directed by Angelo Pizzo (writer/producer of Rudy and Hoosiers), the movie will tell the story of the 1969 championship-winning football team, featuring Aaron Eckhart as coach Darrell K Royal and Finn Wittrock as breakout star Freddie Steinmark. Juston Street plays his father, quarterback James Street; Case McCoy and Jordan Shipley also suited up for their acting debuts.

“I would call this a once-in-a-lifetime experience for UT,” says director of public affairs Amy Crossette, who coordinated the filming. “We have anywhere from 20 to 30 film crews on campus each year, but this was different. Because this is an inspirational real-life story about UT, everyone was thrilled to be a part of it. We all wanted to make it happen.”

And they did just that, in shoots lasting as long as 18 hours. A film crew of more than 100, plus about 100 more students and locals serving as extras, shot scenes inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the Honors Quad, Littlefield Dorm, West Mall, South Mall, and the Whitaker Intramural Fields.

University staff from across campus came together to help, with UT Police providing security and Athletics lending football uniforms to the actors. Housing and Food, Facilities Services, and Parking and Transportation also pitched in.

Since the movie is set in the 1960s, avoiding anachronisms was a big concern. Recycling bins and No Smoking signs were whisked out of sight, vintage cars and bicycles were trucked in, and director Angelo Pizzo went straight to the experts: More than a dozen players from the 1969 football team stood by at several shoots, offering feedback on what felt realistic and what didn’t. Aaron Eckhart flew into Austin several weeks early to spend time researching Darrell K Royal and perfecting his accent and mannerisms. The result prompted one 1969 player to say he felt shivers down his spine as he watched Eckhart perform.

Later in the summer, My All-American traveled to Dallas and San Antonio for additional shoots. The movie is expected to hit theaters next year, and a red-carpet premiere in Austin is in the works.

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Filmed on the Forty Acres

You may have seen UT on the big screen and not even realized it. Since the university began allowing filming in 2000, the campus has seen its share of camera crews. Science and history documentaries and indie projects make up the vast majority of shoots, but there have also been a few big names.

Untitled Terrence Malick Project

Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, and other A-listers filmed on campus two summers ago for an as-yet-untitled movie written by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line). Set to be released next year, the film is billed as “Obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin.”

Friday Night Lights (2008-10)

The championship game in the season three finale of the beloved football drama was shot in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. And when Smash Williams tours a luxurious locker room at the fictional Oklahoma Tech University in season four, he’s actually in Gregory Gym. Texas forever!

The Ringer (2005)

Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame starts in this lowbrow comedy about a man who poses as a Special Olympics contestant. Several scenes from the competition are set in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Life of David Gale (2003)

This drama features Kevin Spacey as an anti-death penalty activist and UT philosophy professor who gets sent to death row; Kate Winslet plays an investigative reporter. Spacey is seen walking around campus and lecturing on Lacan in Garrison Hall.

Miss Congeniality (2000)

The pageant scenes in Sandra Bullock’s biggest hit were shot in UT’s Bass Concert Hall—and if you look closely at the St. Regis Hotel, you can tell it’s really the Driskill, just two miles south of the university.

From top: An extra playing a newspaper reporter; camera assistants Robert Rendon, left, and Sebastian Vega at a shoot in Southlake, Texas.

Photos by Anna Donlan.

 

 

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