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Greg Kinnear Tackles the Role of Coach Dick Vermeil in Invincible

A Football Movie Based on the True Cinderella Story of Vince Papale


Greg Kinnear Tackles the Role of Coach Dick Vermeil in Invincible

Greg Kinnear stars in Invincible.

© Walt Disney Pictures
Greg Kinnear dons green polyester pants for his role as legendary football coach Dick Vermeil in the Disney movie, Invincible, based on the inspirational story of Philadelphia Eagles player Vince Papale. An unlikely candidate for professional football, Papale made the 1976 team when Coach Vermeil decided to shake up the organization by holding open tryouts.

Learning from the Real Dick Vermeil: Vermeil didn’t coach Kinnear on how to portray him in the film. “I’m so surprised, one of the things that I found so refreshing about him is he just doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about his legacy and a little Hollywood movie. I’m telling you, when I rolled into town, I think it was his wife or his grandkids kept whispering to him, ‘They’re doing a movie and you’re going to be in it.’ And he was like, ‘Huh? Oh, yeah, okay. Good luck with that. Let me show you how this all works.’ He genuinely is so fixated in the moment, and I think that’s probably the mark of any good coach.”

Kinnear says the man he got to know is pretty much free of ego. “He’s not vested in that. I did not see any part of that with him at all, and it’s amazing. As a coach you probably learn to focus on the things that you can control, and certainly if they’re doing a movie out here in La-la-land that’s going to have a little bit of him featured in it, I think he probably just felt like, ‘Good luck.’”

Vermeil on the Real Vince Papale and Open Tryouts: Kinnear said that Vermeil did talk to him about Papale and the open tryouts he held in Philadelphia back in the 70s. “Yeah, yeah he did and the big question was how much of this was an attempt to fuel some, I don’t know if publicity is the right word, but just get the city to start watching again, versus did he really need this 45th man who is a bartender? Did he really think he was going to find anybody?

He told me it was basically two things. He said the team that he inherited from Mike McCormack was in big, big trouble. They traded away everybody and they were really up against the wall when they were starting that season. They’d come off so many bad seasons, they had very few players that he felt confident with, so the open tryout… By the way, at that time it wasn’t the NFL today, big difference 30 years ago. It wasn’t completely unheard of to do this. It had been done and it was a bit of a Hail Mary pass and a bit of a long shot. I think we’ve pushed that a little bit in the movie, taking a little license, but it was somewhat of a radical idea. You think about it, thousands showed up and he ended up taking one. It wasn’t like he took three or four; he took one. He really needed speed and in Vince he saw instant speed. He really stood out. I mean Vince had real wheels on him and he also had a spirit that Coach Vermeil says that was just unquestionable. He saw that and was intrigued by that as well."

Kinnear continued, “He kind of wanted the team to be aware that nobody was safe, that this outside force could pop into their bubble all of a sudden. I think he felt it had some value to it as well. But they were both, Vince and Vermeil, kind of in over their heads in this situation, which was amazing that this all would happen right at the same time. What’s amazing about taking that leap of an open tryout and going public like that is that here’s a guy who’s just a college coach, the season before he was out at UCLA. He was not welcomed when he got to Philadelphia. He was a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed surfer dude, they think. He’s actually a very blue-collar background guy and a real hard worker. He was a journeyman mechanic when he was 16. He’s a real tough dude, but that’s not the way they perceived him. That’s not the way the press represented him, so for him to still go out and hold those tryouts and end up taking a guy was pretty remarkable.”

The Advantage of Having the Real Vince Papale on the Set of Invincible: “He is first of all, on a personal level, he’s just a magnificent guy. He is a really wonderful person who I really came to like and respect. I met him six months before I even got the movie, coincidentally at a Super Bowl. He was with some people that I knew and I kind of met him briefly. ‘Hey, how you doin’?’ Never a word from him about any of this. I never had any idea; he was selling insurance or whatever. He never tipped his hand. He’s not a blowhard. He’s not a guy who’s out there posturing himself for this.

I’m amazed that it took 30 years, that the story hadn’t been remade by Hollywood eight times already, quite frankly. It’s that good. But he’s a great guy, and I think having him around was really helpful for just the spirit of making the film. He was very useful to me He had great recollections of Coach Vermeil, in terms of his style and his cadence in doing some of those locker room speeches that I was dreading.”

Page 2: Greg Kinnear on Invincible Star Mark Wahlberg and Dick Vermeil's Reputation

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