by Melinda Ledman
Last month, producers of October Baby and Mom’s Night Out, Jon and Andrew Erwin, announced a casting call for their latest upcoming film, Woodlawn. Then, joined by producer Kevin Downes (Like Dandelion Dust, The Lost Medallion, Mom’s Night Out), trucks and camera crews arrived at Hueytown, AL last week to begin filming the movie.
The story? In 1973, a spiritual awakening captured the heart of nearly every player of the Woodlawn High School Football team and its coach Tandy Gerelds. Their dedication to love and unity in a school filled with racism and hate lead to the largest high school football game ever played in the torn city of Birmingham, Alabama. It also gave rise to its first African American superstar, Tony Nathan, who would go on to join Alabama’s Crimson Tide and play nine years for the Miami Dolphins, including two Super Bowl games.
Joshua Walsh, associate producer of the film, told Fox:
The movie is based on the true story that happened in 1973, right when Woodlawn High School integrated for the first time. They'd integrated in the 60's but not in a big way. I think 500 kids were shipped into the school and it was a tough time for Woodlawn. And this player emerged out it, Tony Nathan. He was on the front page every day, he was a big name for Alabama and it helped unify the city.
According to Fox, “Walsh said it [the game] was Jeff Rutledge versus Tony Nathan and more than 40,000 people showed up to watch the two teams play.”
The Erwin brothers and Downes have not taken the story lightly either. "This isn't a movie that you just go out and write a script," Jon Erwin said last month, "This is a movie that you learn how to make. And that's why we are doing so much research. That's why we are doing proof-of-concepts and tests and screen tests. It's because we want to do this movie justice."
Today, Variety announced that Jon Voight has been cast as iconic college football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He will be joined by Nic Bishop as Woodlawn coach Tandy Gerelds; Sean Astin as the team’s counselor and mascot Hank Erwin; C. Thomas Howell as rival coach George “Shorty” White; Sherri Shepherd as Nathan’s mother, Lance Nichols as Nathan’s father; newcomer Caleb Castille as Nathan; and Richard Kohnke as rival quarterback Jeff Rutledge.