NFL Features Prominently in "Draft Day"

Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment
April 11th, 2014

The Kevin Costner vehicle "Draft Day" goes where very few films have gone before: into the draft room of an NFL football team with the NFL's blessing. The film received the endorsement and cooperation of the NFL and features several real footage scenes of the NFL Draft held at Radio City Music Hall in 2013. Sports movie regular Kevin Costner expands his resume with a starring turn as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns.

The NFL has historically eschewed any involvement in Hollywood films about its organization, but this time, the league both cooperated with and endorsed the production. The film even makes use of the talents of Houston Texans' running back Arian Foster for a role. The film used the real 2013 Draft as a backdrop for part of its footage, and NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell even made an appearance. Furthermore, the leadership of the 32 teams present agreed to help the shooting by wearing the same clothes each day for continuity. This is a big reversal to how the NFL has commonly treated entertainment productions about its workings. In 1999, Oliver Stone attempted to get the NFL's permission to feature the league in "Any Given Sunday." Stone hoped to use teams and player likenesses in the film. The NFL denied the request, reputedly because of the film showing a second-string quarterback being injected with painkillers.

This showcases the larger issue that the NFL historically has with movies and TV shows about the league. It refuses to take part in anything that might paint the league in a bad light. ESPN showed a drama in 2003 called "Playmakers" that was clearly supposed to be about the NFL. However, because of realistic portrayals of the effects of injuries and drugs on the players, the NFL stated its disapproval of the show, which was a big factor in its subsequent disappearance from the TV schedule. The reasons are obvious to anyone who pays attention to the NFL's sway. The NFL has huge contracts with advertisers and studios; as one agent put it, what they want, they get. Another example is ABC trying to make an NFL-related show as a spinoff to "Footballers Wives" as shown on the BBC. Despite initially good reviews, the show never made it because of the NFL's disapproval.

"Draft Day" stars Kevin Costner as the general manager of the Browns, while Jennifer Garner plays the role of the Browns' salary cap wizard. Garner based her character on Megan Rogers, the real team's legal affairs director. She met with Rogers and took detailed pictures and notes of her desk in order to recreate the role. Dennis Leary plays the head coach of the Browns in the movie, and running back Arian Foster appears among other real players.

Kevin Costner had plenty of good things to say about the movie, including that he felt it could stand next to his popular baseball movies "Field of Dreams" and "Bull Durham." However, he also made sure to point out that the movie was a dramatic recreation and is not meant to be a documentary. This is likely to please the NFL, as the usual Hollywood liberties help portray it in a brighter light. For example, the film tones down the boos aimed at Goodell when he walked into the room in the 2013 draft. Costner revealed that he still thought the movie did a good job of getting the grit of NFL Draft Day down in a way that should bring it to life for audiences.

Tracy Perlman, the NFL's vice president of entertainment marketing, was in charge of representing the league in cooperation with the movie. The league used its own film crews at the NFL Draft to help get some of the shots required in the movie. Perlman also consulted with director Ivan Reitman to help him create accurate portrayals of the NFL's workings, right down to the credentials of game officials. Perlman said that the real value of the movie to the NFL was to reach more fans outside of the league's avid fandom. Both Perlman and Reitman emphasized that the film was primarily about the rookie experience on Draft Day. Reitman wanted to show the tension and emotion present for the hundreds of young men hoping to be drafted and play in the NFL. For them, Draft Day is either an amazing dream come true or the disappointing realization that they may never make it in the league.

It is a certainty that industry watchers have their eyes on "Draft Day" as it hits screens with the NFL's considerable clout behind it.