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Posts Tagged ‘Ron Yary’

“I left the theater [after seeing Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood] thinking that this was Brad Pitt— kind of like his Dirk Nowitzki 2011 Finals title. Where it’s like, oh man, I’d written the chapter on his legacy. I didn’t realize we were going to keep rewriting the legacy.”
Bill Simmons (Comparing Pitt’s now Oscar-winning later career performance to a NBA basketball player who helped his team win a Finals title—and series MVP— later in his All-Star career.)
The Bill Simmons Podcast

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I saw Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood nine times while it was in theaters. That’s right, I saw Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film nine times—don’t judge.  That tripled my viewing record of any film while it was still in theaters. It’s an amazingly rewatchable movie, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed The Rewatchables podcast where host Bill Simmons and the gang discussed Once Upon at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

Tarantino loves hang-out movies, and I think you could consider The Rewatchables as a hang-out podcast. (In the Once Upon episode, Simmons hung out with Sean Fennessey and Chris Ryan for a lively discussion.)  I’ve been binging on back episodes for the past week, and it was no surprise that Tarantino himself popped up to hang-out on a few of The Rewatchables. These are usually long format podcasts, but here’s a short sample of the episode on the movie Unstoppable where between talking about his love for actor Denzel Washington, Tarantino spoke about how he wrote the Jules character in Pulp Fiction for Laurence Fishburne— and why Fishburne turned down the role.

Simmons comes from the world of sports analyzing (ESPN, HBO, Grantland) and brings to each podcast a fresh take on movies where he mixes his encyclopedia of knowledge on a variety of topics and sprinkles in enough sports analogues to get someone like me jazzed.

The first 20 years of my life were defined by sports. My ’70s childhood/teenage memories are full of watching the ’72 Miami Dolphins go undefeated, and the Big Red Machine winning the ’75 World Series. I played competitive baseball and football for a decade. I read Jim Boudin’s Ball Four, Gary Shaw’s Meet on the Hoof: The Hidden World of Texas Football.  and consumed sports movies like Brian’s Song, Le Mans, The Longest Yard, Rocky, and North Dallas Forty.

All of that lead for a year in college to working as a sports photographer/journalist with the Sanford Herald.  There I interviewed and/or photographed pro athletes Jack Billingham, Doug Williams, and Tim Raines. Then I walked-on to the Miami Hurricane football team and started studying movies and filmmaking.

After dislocating my shoulder in practice and having an operation, I walked-off and moved to Los Angeles in 1982 to finish film school. Back then, sports and movies were essentially two different worlds. My first spec script was titled Walk-On and I was repeatedly told Hollywood didn’t like sports films because they didn’t sell. That was years before Rudy— and a zillion other sports films.  I learned that in filmmaking, as well as sports, that timing is everything. And there’s always a talent pyramid. (One of my football coaches was fond of saying at the beginning of the season “the cream always rises to the top.”)

While in Los Angeles I worked for a few years at Yary Sports Photography, co-owned by Ron Yary. Yary blocked for O.J. Simpson and won the Outland Trophy at U.S.C, before going on to be a seven time pro-bowl player with the Minnesota Vikings. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

That sets up why Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and Bill Simmons resonate so much with me. I had the opportunity to drive all over Southern California (including Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood Blvd. hundreds of times) between ’82-‘87 taking team photos (including the L.A. Rams and L.A. Raiders) as well as getting a healthy dose of old Hollywood. I was also able to do business at various movie/TV studios including Disney, Warner Bros., and Paramount. It feels like half of Once Upon takes places driving around L.A., which explains why the Once Upon soundtrack has lived in my car CD player since July.

Perhaps in an alternative world, instead of being a few years older than Simmons, ideally I would have been a few years younger and ready to work on the ESPN’s 30 by 30 sports documentaries that launched in 2009—with none other that Bill Simmons as co-creator with Connor Schell.

One of the first 30 by 30 docs was directed by Billy Corban on the University of Miami National Championship football program in the ’80s and ’90s. A documentary so successful that ESPN did a second doc on on the Hurricanes.

With The U doc (along with Rudy, Friday Night Lights, Sandlot, etc.etc.) it’s easy for me to identify some with Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) about the road not taken, but also Cliff Booth’s (Brad Pitt) life ain’t so bad philosophy. Working in production has paid my bills for over three decades, allowed me to travel widely, and to work with many very creative folks.

And like  Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, I still have hope that at the end of day that just maybe (like Rick Dalton) the gates will open to yet another new chapter of life. Who doesn’t want to have hope we’re “just one pool party away” from whatever it is we’re longing for? To be like NFL great John Elway leading the Denver Broncos to back to back Super Bowl victories in the final two years of his career.

“My father always said to me I would be a late bloomer. I believe I’m the oldest person to ever win this particular award. I hope that record is broken.”
Oscar-winning speech by 74-year old David Seidler (The King’s Speech)

But I’m at a point in my life when I can truly appreciate other people’s success. That includes Simmons own “Apex Mountain” (to use a phrase he’s fond of) who’s selling his L.A. based The Ringer podcast company to Spotify in a deal reported to be in the $200 million range. Not bad for a CEO who was fired by ESPN five years ago.

That’s more stunning than if Tarantino had written an ending with Rick Dalton being cast to star in the Roman Polanski directed film Chinatown (1974) instead of Jack Nicholson. Congrats to Bill Simmons on his team for adding their version to Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood folklore.

P.S. One of the categories of The Rewatchables is nitpicks. For instance, in Once Upon they wondered if Brandy the dog that hangs out in Cliff’s trailer has someone take her out for a bathroom break during the day. I did wonder that. But my real nitpick in Once Upon revolves around a key moment of the film. At Spahn Ranch, Cliff discovers not only that he has a flat tire, but that the knife is still in the tire. First, why would you leave your knife in the tire that you flattened?  And secondly, why was only one tire punctured? If you wanted to mess with someone, wouldn’t you flatten all four tires? The only logical explanation is upon flattening the first tire, the knife got stuck. But I think it’s really an homage to Road House (1989), where Dalton (Patrick Swayze) comes out of a bar late at night (after a rowdy fight) to find a knife in his flat tire. In that case, all four tires were slashed. And it had a nice set-up and payoff in that we see in the prior scene Dalton buying four tires and sticking them in his trunk (implying that he’s two steps ahead of the bad guys, knowing they are going to slash his tires).

Related posts:
The Unofficial ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ Filmmaking School
The Dave Martinez  Redemption and the Drama of the 2019 World Series
Remembering the Friday Night Lights 
Once Upon a Time … in Burbank  (reflecting a little on Burt Reynolds )
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Part 1 of 10)

Scott W. Smith 

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“I think it’s great to have the Rams back in Los Angeles. Not having football in L.A. has been missed for the past 20 years, for sure.”
Eric Dickerson
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Yesterday while I was eating lunch at a restaurant I saw that former Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson was on ESPN. I couldn’t hear the sound, but figured it had something to do with the NFL draft.

It turned out that the LA Rams not only had the first pick in the draft last night, but it was the first time in more than 20 years that the LA Rams where in the draft. Though the team was found in Los Angeles in 1946, they moved to St. Louis in 1995 where they became the St. Louis Rams.

There are a few things special about the above photo: first I took the photograph. I moved to LA in the early 80s and began working as a freelance photographer for Yary Photo while I was in film school. After I graduated I became director of photography there and was part of a small team of shooters who set up the portable bleachers and lights for the shot. When it came time to take the photo, I was the one pressing the release on the Mamiya RZ67 .

Two years later I was a 16mm cameraman working for Motivational Media in Burbank and shot an interview with Eric Dickerson at his Calabasas home and I took the 16X20 team photo that I shot and Dickerson was kind enough to sign it.  It’s one of my favorite mementos over the years. One of the things that makes it timeless is Dickerson is still the single season rushing leader. (A record he’s held for over 30 years.)

Another thing special about the photo is a fellow I played football with in high school is in the photo (Chuck Scott, on the end next to #3). He was playing his rookie year after being a second round pick out of Vanderbilt. (Today Chuck’s son Caleb Scott is a wide receiver at Vanderbilt, and another son Chad Scott is a WR at Furman.)

Another item of interest is Yary Photo was started by Ron and Wayne Yary who both played  football at USC. Ron Yary was the Outland Trophy winner in 1967 (top offensive lineman) where he blocked for the eventual Heisman Trophy winner—O.J. Simpson.  He went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. The football field at Bellflower H.S. (where he played high school ball) is named Ron Yary Stadium.

And that’s the rest of the story…

Scott W. Smith

 

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Last night I watched the Monday Night Football game which happened to be the first outdoor Vikings game in Minnesota in 29 years. It proved to be a historic game in that the Chicago Bears broke the record for special teams touchdowns in a season. It was also a night when the Minnesota Viking’s honored the 50 Greatest Vikings.

One of the player’s honored was Ron Yary. When I was in film school, and a few years after graduating, I work as a photographer for Yary Photography. A company that Ron and his brother Wayne owned in Southern California. Ron was an Outland Trophy winner in 1967 when he helped lead USC to a national championship. In 1968, he became the first lineman to ever be the overall NFL #1 pick in when the Vikings drafted him. He played in four Super Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. Quite a career.

Ron lives in Southern California and in 1986 “was the guiding force” in starting the Southern California Viking Club which is said to be the largest Viking fan club outside the state of Minnesota. Of course, all of this fuels L.A. football fans because despite Los Angeles being the second largest media market they currently do not have an NFL team.

What lead the game being played outside last night was a damaged roof on the aging indoor stadium where they usually play. The Vikings would like a new stadium to stay in Minnesota. Of course, many in L.A. would love to have the Vikings move to Southern California. Various reports (rumors) have the Vikings’ front office in talks with businessmen in LA. An article on Forbes.com has a Minnesota Senator promising a stadium tax bill in January 2011 that will help keep the Vikings in Minnesota.

Either way, look for some Minnesota Vs. LA drama in the future. (For the record, L.A. has already lured screenwriters such as Diablo Cody, the Coen Brothers, Nick Schenk from Minnesota.) I don’t know, the Venice Vikings just doesn’t have the right ring.

Congrats to Ron Yary for yet one more honor to add to his career.

P.S. Here’s one of the photos I took when I worked for Yary Photo. It’s of the Los Angeles Rams in 1985. It was signed by Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson and is in my office at work. (One additional personal meaning is in this photo is Chuck Scott, a number #2 draft pick from Vanderbilt, who I played football with in high school.)

That ’85 Ram team won their division, but eventually lost to the Chicago Bears in the playoffs. The Bears lead by Walter Payton. Jim McManhon, and Mike Singletary would go on to win the Super Bowl that year. And just to come full circle with a screenwriting connection—before Chicago-raised screenwriter Diablo Cody wrote Juno she thought about writing about the ’85 Bears team as her first screenplay.

Scott W. Smith

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