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McConaughey Walked Green Carpet , Now Wins Best Actor
Hurdle after hurdle fell into place opening previously shut doors for the production of a feature film based on the Marshall air disaster and the team’s eventual triumph over adversity. Yet, in some way, like in Kate Mara’s narration of the film, “time stood still” in the community. The University became an economic pillar, but after the tragedy the City of Huntington remained in a tough place. As the factories shut down even the dream of a “superblock” mall downtown went east to Barboursville.
A two-square block of land symbolized the unfulfilled potential of the city. As this urban renewal “ground zero” failed to become a mall, aquarium , off track betting facility or even an outlet mall, the land languished with streets that cut between the foundations of concrete --- the remains of structures removed by urban renewal that were not rebuilt.
As the city’s population declined, the Marshall University campus spread eastward and south, but even it had projects that languished for lack of resources for a decade.
The 1990s brought something new to the city --- a winning football team. After decades of losses in their quest to reestablish itself following the plane crash and the recruiting violation scandal that occurred beforehand, the MU football team started winning. Not just a few games, but they were playing for championship of the conference, for the I-AA national championship, the MAC championship, and began receiving bowl game invitations.
With the team’s “playing for championships,” the time stoppage started moving forward. But, the town and gown memory of what a nearby neighbor called a massive gasoline explosion as a plane hit the hillside gloomily persisted.
In fact, Keith Spears, vice president of communications, has admitted that in many ways the school often dreaded regular inquires to do a film about the worst air crash in college sports history.
Those hoping to watch the stars coming down the green carpet started forming a significant line for the bleachers hours before the “official” opening time. Most wore Marshall green although a few women dressed in gowns.
“We Are Marshall” director, McG complimented 25-year-old first time screenwriter Jamie Linden acknowledging, “It took a young heart to capture the essence of the story as well as listen to the senior elements of the community” who lived through the crash.
The director’s first choice for 1971 MU coach Jack Lengyel came from looking for an actor with a big heart. Little did heartthrob Matthew McConaughey know that taking time out of his schedule to help those in need after Katrina would lead to a part that evokes People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man of the year’s” best performance in a drama.
Commenting on portraying a real life character, McConaughey explained, “You have very emotional parts in fictional stories [but when portraying a real life character] you know that what you are portraying on that day is more than a mirror.” The actor who has starred in such films as “Failure to Launch” and “Dazed and Confused” explained that his role as Lengyel need to be “the best emulation of the tragedy that happened to real people,” which in his words mandates both a tremendous responsibility and “real privilege” as the “story was much bigger than any of us individually.”
Asked whether he felt the pressure of playing a real person pushed him from an actor to a role model, McConaughey thoughtfully responded: “I don’t know about a role model, but when you do a film that has a message like this… I think it’s fair to say that a good thing… a good reminder to tell people to carry on and persist.”
He challenged families and communities facing adversity to “figure it out, don’t forget your back, stick with it and you will see a light. I think that is a good thing and there’s not many things [today] that are unanimous.”
For the photo gallery from that night, click: http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/local/061214-rutheford-wam/index.html