Gyllenhaal vs. Namath

Michael Fleming‘s Variety story about Jake Gyllenhaal agreeing to play famed quarterback Joe Namath put me to sleep when I read it two days ago. The fact that Namath was “the first football player to find rock-star status” means zip in terms of a strong story ingredient. I remember Namath and the reports about his big-star swagger — fame, girls, money, endorsements. But nothing happened in his life that would make for strong drama.

The most exciting thing that happened in Namath’s life was beating the Colts in the ’69 Super Bowl. But a win has to be more than just a win. It has to mean something above and beyond.

It is slightly more interesting, frankly, to read about the alleged mile-high incident between Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon on their way back from Europe two or three weeks ago. They spent a reported 11 minutes in the first-class bathroom. I would rather see a short film about this than a feature about Broadway Joe any day.

There’s going a huge hair problem with the Namath film, by the way. For a film set in the ’60s and ’70s, Gyllenhaal will be obliged to wear something similar to an Anton Chigurh haircut. Think about that for a second.

54 thoughts on “Gyllenhaal vs. Namath

  1. i saw zodiac and jake is a non event, i’d rather have seen downey jr or even ruffalo in his role, jake would have been a great peter parker/spiderman though…

  2. I would tend to agree that this idea sounds a little underwhelming, although in fairness Colts-Jets was the biggest upset in NFL history, and Namath boldly predicted it, which cemented his legend. Maybe they could get Suzy Kolber to play herself.

  3. That whole “relationship” just seems like the Cruise/Holmes thing but without the creepy factor. A nice publicist-arranged relationship that provides an easy win for both parties.

    But who knows, maybe it’s legit.

  4. Does anyone actually believe this fauxmance? I don’t care too much about gossip, but this pairing makes me roll my eyes for some reason.

  5. I certainly don’t expect much from a bio-pic, unless it’s “I’m Not There”, but Namath’s life and career does offer a number of opportunities for a feature film. He was a supremely talented quarterback whose career was cut short by numerous knee injuries. He played college football for Bear Bryant in Alabama and professional football for the upstart AFL in NYC for the Jets. He was one of the first superstar media athletes in the country. AND he tried to kiss Suzy Kobler! There’s a lot to work with but I’m sure we’ll get the standard bio-pic formula.

  6. God, I love that clip. It NEVER gets old. It’s one of the most “real” moments in sports ever, so human. It’s up there with Jim Everett leaping over the table to kick Jim Rome’s ass for calling him “Chris” (another great clip out there on YouTube, BTW).

    Anyway, as for Namath. . . the guy had charm, charisma and talent, but I’m with Jeff on this one. His “story” ends with the Superbowl. He never topped that moment, and forever after was, frankly, a mediocre player hobbled by injuries. He had potential; he didn’t quite *waste* it, but never lived up to it.

    That said, if you’re gonna have one moment in your life, that’s one helluva moment to have.

  7. Life ended after the Superbowl? Mantyhose…? C.C. AND COMPANY? The iconic guest spot on The Brady Bunch…? Hello?

    I do hates me my Jake Gyllenhaal, but no doubt he’ll look very much at home in that fur coat.

  8. The one aspect of Namath’s story that might have a good movie in it is his ownership of the Bachelor’s III nightclub in NYC with a couple other athletes. It was a very hot spot in the Upper East Side and became a show biz/fashion world/mafia hangout. Eventually, the NFL got hinky about the number of known gamblers associated with the place and Namath and Pete Rozelle went toe-to-toe, with the latter nearly suspending Namath from the game for not relinquishing his interest. Namath finally blinked and sold out his share. That would make a good HBO movie — but not with Gyllenhaal in the lead.

  9. “Life ended after the Superbowl? Mantyhose…? C.C. AND COMPANY? The iconic guest spot on The Brady Bunch…? Hello?”

    Harry, I *LOVE* Broadway Joe. Make no mistake about that.

    I’m just talking about his *professional* career, which was, in total and in perspective, underwhelming.

    I think that may be the *real* story here: Namath was one of the first professional sports players to become famous for, well, being famous. Anna Kournikova with nicer legs ;-) .

  10. One could conceivably make a biopic of Namath the way Ron Shelton did with COBB – as a commentary on celebrity. Namath was a talented quarterback, but he also put up a good show – he was considered anti-Establisment at the time, but the only thing he really stood for was having a good time (as with the infamous incident where the NFL wanted him to close down Bachelors, his club/restaurant). On the other hand, while he loved the trappings of his lifestyle, he was intensely loyal to his friends, family and teammates. This may not make a biopic with depth, but if done in a satiric way, it could be quite enjoyable.

  11. Could work as a Will Ferrell-style comedy, with Paul Rudd in the lead.

    Otherwise, with the clothes, hair, mustaches, it runs the risks of falling into the dreaded Unintentional Comedy realm.

  12. This has always baffled me. The score was 16-7, which would indicate that it was the Jets’ defense that was way more responsible for the Super Bowl victory than Namath.

  13. One thing about that Super Bowl is that, besides the perceived NFL-AFL imbalances, the Baltimore Colts, coached by Don Shula and quarterbacked by the great Johnny Unitas, were considered to be invincible. It was a titanic shift in the world of professional football when a swinging AFL team defeated the mighty, mighty Colts of the establishment NFL. Namath became the face of the stylish modern athlete after that game.

  14. I used to do my business at the same bank branch on East 42nd across from Grand Central where Joe Namath did his banking. And his favorite teller at the branch often remarked (as many others did at the time, maybe because we’re both of Hungarian descent) to me on my supposed resemblance to Joe.

    Anyway, one day Joe was in there in the morning and this teller told him that his “double” would soon be in to deposit his paycheck. Amazingly, Namath sat around in the bank schmoozing with the staff for an hour until I came in, introduced himself and took me to lunch. We agreed that we didn’t think we looked so much alike, but I also have to admit, he seemed a very nice, down-to-earth guy, as well as someone with a very similar background to my own. (Although his college football exploits were greater than my own modest exploits as an OG.) Never saw him again, but for two hours on a rainy afternoon at the height of his fame he seemed far more charming and “real” than most celebrities I’ve met since. He was especially gracious to people who stopped him on the street as we walked to the restaurant, and even more so to people who bugged him while he was trying to eat lunch. (Which was at Costello’s, a newspaperman’s hangout in the east 40′s where the walls are filled up with sketches and murals by famous newspaper cartoonists.)

  15. Lionsfan, I really enjoyed your story. If more big time NFL and NCAA players were as nice as Broadway Joe, it would be a better world. The truth is that most are animals. I know. I lived with some.

    I think there is a sports film in the Joe Namath story, if the producer and writers did deep into his Pennsylvania upbringing, focus on his conversion to a southern dialect under Bear Bryant, and then show Namath under the spotlight in New York, compliments of Sonny (as in money) Werblin.

    Joe did not always have it easy. And the western Pennsylvania environs of his youth produced some really tough SOBs, like Mike Ditka, Press Maravich, my dad, and scores of NFL players. The movie should end with Super Bowl III, no question.

    They made a story about Vince Papale with Mark Wahlberg, and to my way of thinking, there is a lot more here.

    The Suzy Kolber incident was reprehensible and ugly. It was very unfortunate because alcohol problems and sometimes dubious judgment aside, Joe Namath was a good guy as far as sports superstars go. I remember an ESPN show in which Namath gave a lecture to some young people telling them to listen to their teachers and coaches. And let me tell you, Joe’s deep ball to Don Maynard was a thing of beauty.

    Yeah, there’s enough to make a good movie. However, I question Jake Gyllenhaal as Namath. He does not have the macho charisma of Broadway Joe in his prime. Gyllenhaal looked silly with his sideburns and mustache in the later scenes in “Brokeback Mountain.” He can’t do pantyhose as a virile male.

  16. Lionsfan, I really enjoyed your story. If more big time NFL and NCAA players were as nice as Broadway Joe, it would be a better world. The truth is that most are animals. I know. I lived with some.

    I think there is a sports film in the Joe Namath story, if the producer and writers did deep into his Pennsylvania upbringing, focus on his conversion to a southern dialect under Bear Bryant, and then show Namath under the spotlight in New York, compliments of Sonny (as in money) Werblin.

    Joe did not always have it easy. And the western Pennsylvania environs of his youth produced some really tough SOBs, like Mike Ditka, Press Maravich, my dad, and scores of NFL players. The movie should end with Super Bowl III, no question.

    They made a story about Vince Papale with Mark Wahlberg, and to my way of thinking, there is a lot more here.

    The Suzy Kolber incident was reprehensible and ugly. It was very unfortunate because alcohol problems and sometimes dubious judgment aside, Joe Namath was a good guy as far as sports superstars go. I remember an ESPN show in which Namath gave a lecture to some young people telling them to listen to their teachers and coaches. And let me tell you, Joe’s deep ball to Don Maynard was a thing of beauty.

    Yeah, there’s enough to make a good movie. However, I question Jake Gyllenhaal as Namath. He does not have the macho charisma of Broadway Joe in his prime. Gyllenhaal looked silly with his sideburns and mustache in the later scenes in “Brokeback Mountain.” He can’t do pantyhose as a virile male.

  17. A couple of you guys got it right on the money. The real question, for me, is how Jake will look with a Fu Manchu mustache, wearing an outrageous full length mink coat. Seriously. Only Broadway Joe could rock that outfit, and that charisma was key to his mystique. I could see someone like Clooney or Pitt pulling it off. But not Jake.

  18. Dang it, since I was lost in the Namath memories, I forgot to mention what everyone else is mentioning–

    Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Namath?!? What, Maggie isn’t available???

    Seriously, that’s the most ridiculous casting I’ve ever heard. Zero physical resemblance, zero vocal resemblance, and most of all, NO presence.

    Namath walked into a room or showed up on TV, you paid attention. The guy had charisma and presence. He was (is) a star, a character, literally larger-than-life. A man’s man.

    Jack is a mouse. A cute little mouse.

    That said. . . *who* do we get to play Namath? What kind of man can pull it off? It’s a hard call, mostly because Hollywood doesn’t use real men anymore.

    Actually, you know who I picture in this? Gerard Butler. Alas, he’s too old for the young Namath. . . but who the hell do we have in the young actor department that can capture that Namath swagger without being laughed at?

  19. Wow, Jeff. You truly know NOTHING about sports, do you? The NFL is the biggest and most profitable sports league in the world, and Namath’s place in that history is without question. Forget where he played at school and who was his coach and then add in his legendary endorsement deals, women problems, and alcoholism. That seems like enough. But you really don’t know sports. Admit it.

  20. “who the hell do we have in the young actor department that can capture that Namath swagger without being laughed at?”

    No one. And that, more than anything else, is what is wrong with movies today. Why do you think 300 made so much money? Audiences are starved for characters like Butler’s Leonidas.

  21. And the whole point is that his career doesn’t add up to the hype coming in and all the rest. That makes it a great story because it wasn’t all about stats and on field stuff.

    Also, nice, Jake. 11 minutes. I would have pegged him for more of a 3-3 1/2 kind of guy myself.

  22. Sounds like another plotless movie with a lot of bad fake sideburns, music from 1976 in a movie taking place in 1969 with a Paul Rudnick script. Boring.

  23. I wouldn’t call a lack of arrogant, hyper-masculinized boneheads ‘what is wrong with movies today’. I mean, good for WB that they made a lot of money with a crappy movie, but I think the culture at large is better off with only one 300 per year.

  24. I’m not speaking specifically of 300 or machismo or whatever. I’m speaking of actors who have the charisma to sell larger than life characters. Like Chris Rock said, if you want Russell Crowe, don’t settle for Jude Law.

    Say what you will, but Butler sold the Leonidas character. Just as Crowe sold Maximus and Viggo Mortensen sold Aragorn. Pitt couldn’t pull off Achilles. Clive Owen (surprisingly) couldn’t pull off Arthur. And I don’t think Jake G. will pull off Namath.

  25. Ditto Rich. Although I wouldn’t sell Owen short, he’s got it– that was just a bad flick.

    My GF hasn’t seen a lot of old “guy” movies because she didn’t grow up around them, and plus, c’mon, she’s a girl. So, I’ve been running through my collection of “guy” movies from the TNT/TBS/AMC rotation– The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, Kelly’s Heroes, etc.

    Watching stuff like that, I realize two things:
    1. Yes, movies these days are far more “sophisticated” and realistic, but not necessarily better for it.
    2. Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Garner, John Cassavetes, Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas. . . these were MEN. Characters. People who inhabited their skin in a way very few actors do these days.

    I know that times have changed. Men “moisturize” today. I get that.

    But man, something was lost along the way. Masculine charisma and gravitas among them.

  26. That’s a great story, lionsfan.

    As somebody who fairly hates pro sports, I loved Joe Namath as a kid. I can’t recall the last football player who had that kind of mass appeal.

    Of course, having Elvis sing the theme song to Broadway Joe’s biker flick can only be seen as a cultural coronation.

  27. Try re-casting The Wild Bunch today. William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Robert Ryan, Ben Johnson. Hell, even Strother Martin and Edmond O’Brien. And our action heroes are Hayden Christensen and Keanu Reeves. Oy.

  28. I am sure none of you realize how immature and homophobic you sound. How old are some of you anyway? Pretty disgusting commentary on our culture right here. Sure you don’t have to love the casting of Jake G. but to insult him with stupid gay jokes and innuendo. Please, grow up.

    Imo, I think Jake does resemble the younger Joe a lot. Also, Jake is very althetic and bigger than most think. He bulked up and did an excellent job in Jarhead. It does depend on the script and director but Jake has a great comedic side and charm and it could go either way, great or bad. How about giving him a chance first without childish insults.

    Also, Jeff, since when did you get into gossip? I thought you were above that bullshit.

  29. Broadway Joe is a man and has charisma. Jake is a boy and does not. I don’t care if Jake is gay or not, it’s bad casting. Period.

  30. The only drama I ever recall in Joe Namath’s life and career was whether his knees would hold up for another season.

    How about Crispin Glover as Joe Namath? Crispin kicked ass as Grendel. Or at least his CGI avatar did.

  31. Spicer, have you ever *seen* Rex Grossman?? As a sad-sack Bears, I must say that Adam Sandler would be more macho at QB ;-) .

    Metome– homophobia has nothing to do with it. I like Jake, in certain roles. I liked Donnie Darko, I thought Jarhead was better than it got credit for, and he was good in Brokeback Mountain.

    That said, he’s NOT macho. He’s just. . . not.

    I do find it interesting how Heath Ledger leaves that movie with plenty of “heterosexual” respect, but Jake leaves it tagged as the gay one. That may tell you all you need to know about how audiences see Jake– he’s soft. He could be as straight as an arrow, but he comes off as, well, gay. Or at least a squishy straight guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But we’re not talking the “sculpted leather-clad Viking man” brand of gay here, we’re talking the “Let’s walk our beagle to Panera for breakfast and cuddle” brand of gay here.

    I just don’t buy Jake having the range. Lately, his appearance in movies annoys me more than pleases me. And again, that’s before we even get to whether he’s at all like Namath, who’s had enough of a public persona in our culture to be a very recognizable person.

  32. “Try re-casting The Wild Bunch today.”

    Um, Dennis Hopper? Gene Hackman? Robert Duvall? No, they’re too old. Hopper’s 71, Hackman’s 77, Duvall’s 76. Robert Ryan was only 60, and Holden was in his early 50s.

    Um, Clive Owen? Daniel Craig? Damn, they’re British. Terence Stamp? Michael Caine? Too old and British.

    Michael Madsen? Not a big enough star.

    Sam Jackson? Ving Rhames? I’d have an easy time putting together a cast of African Americans, white geriatrics, and Brits.

    Tommy Lee Jones — there you go. Right age, 61, and as tough and Texas as they come. And Josh Brolin! Add Michael Madsen, your African Americans, white geriatrics, and Brits, and you have your Wild Bunch cast.

  33. “The most exciting thing that happened in Namath’s life was beating the Colts in the ’69 Super Bowl.”

    Ho hum…

    That may one of the stupidest things you have ever written…you’ve written a lot and it’s hard to quantify, but definitely top 5.

    As far as these cosmically insignificant accomplishments go, what personal achievement has EVER occurred in your life, or Jake Gyllenhall’s, or Mark Ruffalo’s, or Michael Mann’s that would be considered even HALF the accomplishment of that??

    I’m not a huge Namath guy, but christ, the man promised to take down goliath and then went otu and did it, helping to usher in the merger that formed the most succesful sports marketing league the world has ever known. No story there.

    In other news, small town Connecticut boy attracts 10,000 unique visitors per day.

  34. Rich S.: This is going off the topic of Jeff’s post, but your post intrigues me… great question! To stay true to the film’s story about former cowboys going over the hill versus a younger generation, you’d need older actors with the grit to play cowboys – recasting the Wild Bunch today: Sam Elliot, Kurt Russell, Powers Boothe, heck, I’m naming the cast of Tombstone! Throw in Nick Nolte, too! He & Boothe were amazing in Walter Hill’s homage to W.B., Extreme Prejudice. I guess you really could cast a W.B. remake today.

  35. Add Russell Crowe, Daniel Day Lewis, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Javier Bardem, and Benicio del Toro to that Wild Bunch cast.

    There’s no shortage of convincing tough guys in the movies nowadays. It just happens that most of the them are black, British, Australian, Latino, or old.

  36. Good list, Jean. How could I have forgotten Nick Nolte, Sam Elliot, Kurt Russell, and Powers Boothe? I was just goofing, but you came up with a serious list.

    I agree with you on Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe in Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice. I went into that movie not expecting much, and it turned my head around. I’m surprised it’s never gotten the attention of some of Walter Hill’s other films.

    Add Ian McShane and Ray Winstone to my list for Brit tough guy version of the Wild Bunch.

  37. Dave, I realize there are people that feel the way you do. However, the “jokes” on here have been insulting and homophobic. It shows how narrowminded and stereotypical people are about sexuality. Imo, Jake did an excellent job in Brokeback, but that was two years ago, almost three. He has done two movies since then and people still won’t move on. He is an actor and he can bulk up and do what he needs to do to get into JN mode. Sure you may not agree and you may not see it now but that doesn;t mean he can’t pull it off.

  38. Good idea for a movie. I’m a Broadway Joe fan from way back, obviously, and a football freak.

    Nemo, the reason Heath Ledger came down from the mountain, as you so aptly put it, with his heterosexuality in tact, is that he came down that mountain with a pregnant girlfriend on his arm. Puleeze, take your homophobia elsewhere.

    Jake came down, lived his life as a single man, and now has to contend with homophobia of the concerned variety, i.e., “I think Jake’s too soft to play macho Joe Namath.”
    Please Joe who wore fur, made stockings commercials, and incidentally made the NFL and the world sit up and pay attention. And now because Jake was BBM he’s not tough enough.

    Jake is athletic, can act, and can probably bench press Heath Ledger.

    Jeffery, I registered today after years of reading your column to say, please leave the tab gossip to Perez. You are much higher on the Hollyweird food chain than he is…stay there.

  39. Yes I know Jake is an actor which means he could play a variety of roles but to me (only an opinion) is he doesn’t have IT. Daniel Craig is a good actor and he has charisma for days. A friend said to me Craig looks like a shovel hit his face yet he is sexy as hell. He has that IT thing you can’t really fake or create.

    Broadway Joe was sexy. Jake is too frat boy/all-american and contemporary. It takes a man with a certain type of swagger to rock a fur coat like that. I remember seeing photos of the Knicks from the 70s and those outfits the players wore off the court (except for my man Dollar Bill) were priceless.

    We’ll see if the ever movie gets made but I am not feeling Jake in this movie at all.

  40. Are people remembering the same Joe Namath I remember? I wouldn’t call his voice exactly stentorian. Also, he was, essentially, the first metrosexual athlete. Gyllenhaal has the muscle and the moves to play him.

    As for why Jake G can’t escape Brokeback’s stereotyped shadow? It’s because his character was the one who got fucked. It’s a sad commentary that so many people can’t get past that.

  41. As to recasting The Wild Bunch, good suggestions all. I still think, though, that the original cast looked so world-weary and beat down that it would be tough to match that. But the suggestions you’ve put forth would definitely be a start. After The Proposition, though, you’d have to throw John Hurt in there somewhere.

  42. The Wild Bunch is an interesting exercise. Here’s another one …. Try to recast the Lee Marvin role in Point Blank with an American actor from today. Every name you think of will be British or Australian.

  43. This still violates your rule, but I would love to see Bardem doing a ’60s style Lee Marvin kind of role. Not British or Australian, but your point is well taken.

  44. Lee Marvin is kind of unfair because he was a Marine who fought in the Pacific in WWII and was severely wounded at Saipan, where most of the rest of his platoon was killed.

    All the Method in the world can’t fake that kind of experience.

  45. If I were casting The Wild Bunch today, I’d cast pretty much anyone who appeared in Tombstone, The Proposition, or No Country for Old Men.

    I’d also consider any of the Carradine or Quaid brothers.

    Your mention of Lee Marvin’s real-life hell in the Pacific reminds me of the stories I’ve read about Charles Bronson’s early life working in Pennsylvania coal mines as a teenager until he was drafted, or Steve McQueen doing juvenile time in Chino until he joined the Marines. All those guys knew what it was like to grow up through hard times with little reason for hope.

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