Jim Brown is one of the best (if not the best) football players of all time. At the peak of his career, he did the unthinkable and walked away from football to pursue a career in Hollywood. He went on to have a very solid movie career, and doesn’t seem to have any regrets as evidenced from a 2008 interview with Esquire Magazine.
The best quote here:
To leave at twenty-nine years old, MVP, having won the championship in ’64 and played for it in ’65. To go into the movies and break the color barrier and be in a sex scene with Raquel Welch. To get to be in The Dirty Dozen with some great actors. To make more money in one year than you damn near made in nine years of football. Everything about it was ingenious.
Sounds pretty ingenious to me. It also sounded pretty ingenious to plenty of athletes after Brown broke out on the silver screen. O.J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mike Tyson and more took their turns in movies with pretty positive results considering it wasn’t their true calling.
So why doesn’t every athlete give up the body punishing rigors of professional sports and sign up for classes at Lee Strasberg? Because making a successful transition from the playing field to the studio lot is tough.
Go watch the tape of Dan Marino stuttering through Ace Ventura, or Howie Long’s painful screen time in the 1996 action movie “Broken Arrow”. Hell, look at Shaquille O’Neal’s entire imdb page. Seriously, look at it!
Acting ain’t easy kids.
That brings us to present day, where pro athletes are constantly showing up in commercials, TV shows and movies. Constantly under a media microscope, in front of cameras and with a team of handlers and agents teaching them the finer points of marketing themselves, it’s not a surprise that athletes look more comfortable on the big and small screen, sans uniform.
This past weekend saw the much anticipated release of the new Judd Apatow/Amy Schumer comedy, “Trainwreck”. The movie is about a club going, hard partying magazine writer (Schumer) who falls for the subject of one of her articles, a sports orthopedic surgeon played by SNL alum Bill Hader.
The movie is full of sports figures channeling their inner Jim Brown, so I thought I’d take a look at how everyone performed, since I am the FSB arbiter on all things acting.
There may be spoilers, although there isn’t much to spoil about the plot of the movie. That’s your spoiler warning.
John Cena: The WWE superstar plays Schumer’s boyfriend before she meets Hader. His first appearance in the movie led to this exchange between Mrs. FSB and myself.
Me: That’s a really famous pro wrestler.
Mrs. FSB: I know, he was on an episode of “WWE Divas”.
Ok then. Here I thought I was outing myself as someone who still knows enough about pro wrestling to spot one in the wild, and my wife already knew him from a WWE reality show. Marriage is fun.
It’s no surprise that Cena was very believable and funny. WWE stars get prominent roles within the company for their microphone skills as much as their physical prowess. Cena has been one of the faces of the WWE franchise for several years now and holds his own opposite Schumer.
And ladies, if you’re a fan of Cena, little is left to imagination during his sex scene with Schumer. Let’s just say at one point you get to see the whole show, except for his turnbuckle (see what I did there), which is conveniently being used as a freakin’ towel rack. A few more On Demand workout videos and I’ll be coming for you John Cena.
Amar’e Stoudemire: Stoudemire plays himself, and is also entertaining as a knee surgery patient of Hader’s, who mainly is a doctor for the Knicks. Most of his lines are given under the influence of medicinal sedatives, and he had fun with it. However, it wasn’t really a stretch for Stoudemire to play an injured basketball player that doesn’t play defense.
Tony Romo: During Hader’s awards luncheon for all his philanthropic work, Romo is almost too good as an aging QB dropping lame one liners and schmoozing millionaires at the dais of a Manhattan hotel ball room. One more back injury and Romo may permanently head to the Dick Vitale speaking tour.
Chris Evert: The former darling of American tennis is wasted in “Trainwreck”, shoehorned into an awkward and forced scene full of cameos that also includes Matthew Broderick and Marv Albert (more on him shortly). Evert either showed up late for her scene or had all of her lines get cut. Maybe Martina Navratilova was the Executive Producer.
Marv Albert: In the same scene as Evert, Albert has a funny bit written for him as he announces in vintage Marv Albert fashion the back and forth between Hader and the other characters. I just want to know how many times Schumer asked Apatow if she could add in a joke about Albert wearing women’s underwear. I’ve got the total set at 11.5 times and I’d take the over.
LeBron James: The star of the show, as far as the athletes are concerned. Much more than a cameo, James plays himself, sorta. As Hader’s best friend, he serves as a sounding board and advice dispenser for all of Hader’s women troubles. He also plays a fractured, frugal version of himself, haggling with Hader over a lunch bill (“I told you those refills weren’t free!”) and cornering Schumer at a charity basketball game to make sure her intentions are pure.
James proves himself to be very self aware, and very funny. The timing and nuisance is there when sharing the screen with some comedic heavy hitters. Judd Apatow has said since the filming that he was extremely impressed with LeBron James the comedic actor, and it’s no surprise why. The guy is funny.