Kinnick film seeks local talent with the support of Hawkeye fans

Producer Joe Heath hopes to create a Hollywood film depicting the Nile Kinnick and the 1939 football team.

A+statue+of+Nile+Kinnick+is+seen+before+the+Iowa%2FNorth+Texas+game+in+Kinnick+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+16%2C+2017.+Iowa+last+played+North+Texas+in+2015+where+they+defeated+them%2C+62-16.+%28Joseph+Cress%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Kinnick film seeks local talent with the support of Hawkeye fans

A statue of Nile Kinnick is seen before the Iowa/North Texas game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Iowa last played North Texas in 2015 where they defeated them, 62-16. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

A statue of Nile Kinnick is seen before the Iowa/North Texas game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Iowa last played North Texas in 2015 where they defeated them, 62-16. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

A statue of Nile Kinnick is seen before the Iowa/North Texas game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Iowa last played North Texas in 2015 where they defeated them, 62-16. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

A statue of Nile Kinnick is seen before the Iowa/North Texas game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Iowa last played North Texas in 2015 where they defeated them, 62-16. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

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To live in Iowa City is to know the name Nile Kinnick. So local residents should not be surprised that they may get a chance to have roles in a film about the famous Hawkeye.

Iowa City is posed to serve as home base for The Ironmen, a film written by Iowa writer Tom Lidd and producer Joe Heath that depicts the life of Nile Kinnick and the famous football 1939 team. UI alum Nicholas Meyer, a writer and director nominated for an Oscar for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, also contributed his talents in a major way by revising the original script. The film’s production brings some opportunities for local actors and community members — including students — to take a stab at being part of the Hawkeye-driven film.

“We want to cast a lot of stuff local,” Heath said. “For the first time, the city, the artist, arts venues, and the university are all working together for a mutual goal.”

The film’s team will cast local actors for the roles of famous sculptor Elizabeth Catlett and renown painter Grant Wood for walk-on parts in the film. What makes the film unique, Heath said, is the support from Hawkeyes and their drive to keep things grounded by Iowa City for the film.

Heath said that the person responsible for coming up with the cameo roles is Senior Vice President for Finance & Operations and University Architect Rod Lehnertz.

The university is excited to work with the campus production of the film, but it is not funding or helping to fund the project in any way.

“I think it’s exciting for us at the University of Iowa that they’ll be opening up options for extras for people who can fit the bill for people on campus and the community here,” Lehnertz said. “That does allow us to wrap our arms around this film as a collective community and get excited about a time that is well past but certainly worth retelling.”

The casting call for The Ironmen for the two roles will take place 9-11 a.m. June 22 at FilmScene.

RELATED: Movie about Nile Kinnick hopes to premiere in namesake stadium

Heath hopes this film will not just help show people an often-overlooked football icon but also a person who has truly affected the modern world.

“This has been hidden for 80-plus years; his face is on the coin that’s tossed in every Big Ten [football] game, and it has been since the early ’70s,” Heath said. “People like this don’t exist. Ronald Reagan recognized that this guy would have probably been the president instead of him. People knew where this guy was going.”

This amount of Hawkeye pride and caring important for actor and former UI student Brandon Routh. With such roles as Superman on Routh’s résumé, Ironmen plans to cast him in several different roles, one being an assistant coach of the 1939 team, but this is still pending availability and director approval Heath said.

“I grew up a huge Hawkeye fan; I don’t think I really knew the story of Nile till I read the book,” Routh said. “I have been to Kinnick Stadium many times, having gone to the University of Iowa in 1998/1999.”

The stranger-than-fiction story of Kinnick drew Routh to the film, but his impetus for getting involved was the character that Kinnick displayed outside the gridiron.

“I think just the kind of person Nile was is the kind of person we need more of: someone who seems to be open to all walks of life,” Routh said. “That’s a very valuable lesson always, but especially at this point in our American history. I think the stories that can be elevated like that are important.”

Ironmen is one of the many films that has set Iowa for their filming location, going back to 1919.

“I’ve been told by producers that the variety of locations that we have are really key,” Liz Gilman, executive producer of Produce Iowa-State Office of Media Production. “If you want to shut down a street in Atlanta, Georgia or New York city, that will cost you a lot of money. In Iowa we have such a genuine offer to help people that makes it so much easier.”

With a state this filled with cinema aspirations Produce Iowa has started a “Green light” grant that will award Iowa resident filmmakers $10,000 to $50,000, with a one to one match,  to get their films made.

“I’m focused on the home grown films,” Gilman said. “This is money we are willing to invest in Iowans and it’s designed to get scripts to screen.”