Separating Fact, Fiction in 1993 Film ‘Rudy’
Last year, legendary Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana, speaking on Dan Patrick’s radio show, admitted that not all of the feel-good story is true surrounding former Irish walk-on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger.
That’s the man who inspired the popular 1993 film “Rudy,” which serves as Hollywood’s ultimate underdog story. But Hollywood should be underlined since the film used its creative license to enhance the plot and create even more goosebumps on our skin.
“It’s a movie, remember. Not all of that is true,” Montana told Patrick.
“... So he got in. He did get a sack. And then the guys carried him off, just playing around. I won’t say it was a joke, but it was playing around. He worked his butt off to get where he was and to do the things he did. But not any harder than anyone else.”
Way to ruin it, Joe.
But since he brings it up - and we respect the memory of perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time - let’s examine the fiction in a movie that, yes, was based on a true story.
Movie: Rudy’s family did not believe in his ability to play football. His older brother, Frank, made fun of his drive to succeed on the field and didn’t believe the diminutive Ruettiger could do it.
Real Life: Coldhardfootballfacts.com said that the “incredulity” of Rudy’s family was manufactured - perhaps in an attempt to drive the plot. It needed to be obvious that everyone was against Rudy - even those who were supposed to support him the most. Oh yeah, Rudy didn’t even have an older brother, the web site said. He had two older sisters and was the oldest boy in a brood of 14. None of his siblings were named Frank. Rudy told the New York Times the character was a composite of “everybody who ever discouraged me.”
Movie: Players laid down their jerseys, serving as a tool to force coach Dan Devine to led Rudy play.
Real Life: The players did not enter Devine’s office and turn in their jerseys one by one in what no doubt was one of the movie’s defining moments. The Sierra Star of Oakhurst, CA, cites Devine’s autobiography, “Simply Devine,” which said it was the coach’s idea to dress Rudy for the final game.
Devine himself told the Houston Chronicle, “The jersey scene is unforgivable. It’s a lie and untrue.” Well, then.
Movie: Rudy became friends with a groundskeeper named Fortune who backed him and convinced him to keep pushing toward his dream.
Real Life: The groundskeeper was a representation of three people, according to Rudy International, Ruettiger’s web site. According to the web site, the film did not have enough time to introduce and develop three people who were influential in Rudy’s life. It instead spliced them all into one very supportive groundskeeper.
“He was a composite, but that was reality, and that’s what happened in my life ... all through my life,” Rudy said, according to the Star.
“I would encounter people like that and they would help me get through the tough times through their wisdom and their encouragement.”
Movie: Notre Dame faces Georgia Tech in the final game of the 1975 season, Rudy’s last game.
Real Life: It was only Notre Dame’s final home game. Notre Dame played at Pittsburgh and at Miami (FL) to finish the season.
Movie: Teammates and fans chant Rudy’s name, prompting Devine to put Rudy into the game. The scene culminates with the famous sack.
Real Life: Even Rudy admitted in an interview on the movie’s DVD that it didn’t quite happen this way. He said that he asked to be inserted into the game, recorded the sack and then the chant began.
We like it the other way around.
Movie: Rudy was carried off the field after his sack like a conquering hero.
Real Life: This is where it gets sticky. The aforementioned comments by Montana suggest that he was on his teammates’ shoulders in jest. But last September, a teammate of both Montana and Ruettiger, Jay Achterhoff, told TMZ that he was disappointed in Montana’s depiction of the events.
“Rudy was carried off the field that day ... but not as a joke - but because he finally got to play,” Achterhoff told TMZ. “You’ve never in your life seen a guy who wanted to be on the field more.”
Well, we can’t argue with that.
Movie: Right before the credits roll, a black screen with the words “Since 1975, no other Notre Dame player has been carried off the field” appear.
Real Life: Bob Golic told the L.A. Times “That’s BS. In 1978, I got a concussion and they carried me off on a stretcher.” Marc Edwards was also carried off the field in 1995, after the movie already came out.
It’s clear that things get a little hazy when different people try to remember details from a game that happened 36 years ago - even a contest that had such an iconic moment.
Either way, Rudy has become the symbol for those who want to rise above expectations and do things that others didn’t think they could.
Even if it didn’t happen exactly how the movie depicts, things have turned out great for Rudy, who now is an inspirational speaker living in Las Vegas and, according to The Star, demands a fee of $17,500 to do so.