But when you add hard work, pain, happiness and sadness then it becomes something else. Something more than a game, less than a war.
Millions of young boys across the nation are dreaming of playing professional football in the NFL as these words are being typed. Unfortunately, most of them will never get to run out of the locker room, through the tunnel and onto the football field. Most will be cut. Yes, cut. It’s one of a handful of words that will have boys and a grown men alike burst into tears or fall into depression.
It’s a hard reality to deal with especially when you feel like you’ve given your all only to be told you weren’t good enough. It’s also a reality that former NFL wide receiver turned filmmaker Matthew Cherry knows all too well. “The Last Fall” is his first feature film and it premieres (today) October 26 in Los Angeles at Rave Cinema in Baldwin Hills.
If it does well there, which I’m sure it will, it will open in theaters across the country. Recently I had the chance to speak with Cherry and the star Lance Gross about the film’s particulars. “The Last Fall” is co-produced by former Philadelphia Eagle Ellis Hobbs. I asked Cherry how Hobbs got wind of this project.
“It’s a crazy story,” explained Cherry. “When we had the movie written we decided that we were going to try and do an indie go-go campaign. It really wasn’t to raise money but more so to create awareness. You know, strange things happen when you put yourself out there. So, they were saying that we needed something like $16,321. They were very specific and we’re like ‘Why’re they so specific about this number’. But, like clockwork, 2 days later we get a phone call from this woman who I had never talked to before. She said ‘Hey, my name is Monique Hobbs and my husband’s name is Ellis Hobbs. He was with the Eagles and is now retired because of injury. We were looking for projects to invest in and your story interests me. Let me know if you still need producers because we think we might want to come on board with your project and back you.’ This was literally two days later. We have to walk out on faith sometimes. You may not be able to see the whole staircase but we have to step out on faith, you know?”
The film’s protagonist is actor Lance Gross of Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” among his many other works. Gross certainly does look the part of an athlete in the film. I asked Matt was there any other reasons he chose the actor.
“The thing about Lance is…well, obviously the ladies love him. I’ve never been around someone who just has this natural energy about him,” Cherry told EURweb.com. “He just turns the women to mush. All the women that we’ve work with appreciate the fact that we cast him for this project. But, besides the looks, the lead character in the film is an NFL player and so the actor I picked had to have a certain look, a certain swag about him. Plus the movie subject matter was pulled from my life so the lead character is a wide receiver So, when you’re looking for someone that fits that criteria it kinda eliminates a lot of people. Most actors are mad short or out of shape, know what I’m saying? There aren’t a lot of 6 ft plus African American actors, who have those qualities about themselves, that are in that same age range. There are a lot fo cats in their late 30s early 40s and then there’s a lot of cats that are super young, like around Bow Wow’s age. I just had to find that balance. I felt like Lance, first and for most, was a hard worker, which was paramount.”
“I play Kyle Bishop, a former NFL player who gets cut and has to return home to his family,” added Lance. “He also has a high school sweetheart he gets reunited with. He also has to deal with the relationships with his family while dealing with the fact that he’s no longer in the NFL.”
“I felt like he was never given the opportunity to truly show the range that he has. The character he plays on ‘House of Payne’ is basically a kid,” said Cherry. “He doesn’t have to deal with grown man issues. There wasn’t a whole lot he had to deal with so Lance never got the chance to show that full range of emotions. I felt like he needed a role to show his acting abilities and prove that he could be a leading man.”
“It was a great script,” said Gross when asked why he accepted a role in a indie film. “When I read the script it was a page turner. I forgot about the fact that it was an independent. It was just different from the other things that I was doing and the roles that I’ve played in the past. The story educated me on the life of a football player. I wanted to help bring that to life.”
Though Lance looks every bit the part of an athlete, film and television have been the arena in which he has chosen to perform. I asked Gross how he was able to relate to the plight of Kyle Bishop.
“For me, I had to ask myself ‘what if?’ It reminds me a lot of the career of an actor. It can all be taken away from you, like that. As an actor going for roles through auditions we’re told no all the time. Your life can change in an instant. I might not ever get a job again, know what I mean? It kind of goes hand and hand with the character Kyle’s situation. I talked to a lot of football players who have been in the league and have been through that situation.”
“The Last Fall” has been riding the film festival circuit for a little over a year now and is Cherry’s first feature film after putting in years of work directing videos for the likes of N’Dambi, Foreign Exchange and many others. I asked Lance what type of director does he think Cherry is at this stage in his career.
“Matt was cool. We have a lot of friends in common. So, we all kind of knew each other. We would see each other at events all the time. We always had a friend base to go off of. Matt was a cool, laid back director. We spent a lot of time talking about the role, talking about the story. He asked me a lot of questions, I asked him a lot of questions. He was just a good director to work with. He’s very competitive too. I almost forgot about that. He felt like he could beat me in the 40 yard dash so I had to show him.”
As a wide receiver coming out of the University of Akron, Cherry was known for his speed. We guess directing a great debut film might have taken some of that world-class sprinting out of him. After reading this we’re sure Matt will ask Lance for a rematch. In the meantime, he would be satisfied with getting as many people as possible down to see “The Last Fall” for it’s opening weekend beginning October 26.
“Our goal is to have 1,000 people show up and see the movie between Friday and Saturday because typically that’s when the theaters make the decision as to whether or not they’re going to keep the film,” explained the director. “They tell you they’re going to wait and see but really the decision will have already been made (after the opening weekend). Buy a ticket to come out and see us on Friday and Saturday. We’re very much a grassroots movement, we’re doing it ourselves and are trying to get 1,000 bodies in the seats. It’s a regular run and not just one screening. It will play 3 to 5 times during the day.”
We’re rooting for these two brothers in a big way and hope you can come out see what we already know. Though there isn’t much actual football in the film, “The Last Fall”, which also stars Vanessa Bell Calloway, Keith David and Nicole Beharie, captures the emotions and concerns of a blue collar NFL player like no film I’ve seen since “Vinnie”, starring Mark Wahlberg.
For more information on the film log on to http://www.thelastfallmovie.com/