Jul 10, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
It is only fitting that “The Express”, the film on the life of Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, has its world premiere in Syracuse, on the weekend of the renewal of the Orange’s great football rivalry with Penn State.
Syracuse University and Universal Pictures announced that “The Express” will debut Friday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the Landmark Theatre, a venue frequented by Davis and his teammates during their days at SU.
The film about Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, stars Rob Brown (“Finding Forrester”) as Davis and Dennis Quaid (“The Rookie”) as Coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Gary Fleder (“Runaway Jury”) directed the film, which opens nationally on Oct. 3.
Davis followed his hero, Jim Brown, to SU in 1958 and one year later led the Orange to the national championship. He was a pioneer for African American football players in much the same way one of his idols, Jackie Robinson, broke baseball’s color barrier.
Quaid, Rob Brown and other cast members and celebrities will arrive at a special “orange carpet” entry in classic convertible automobiles. Following the screening, guests will go to the Onondaga County War Memorial for a gala theme party with entertainment of the late 1950s era.
Bleachers will be constructed on Salina Street for the public to view the orange carpet arrival program that will be shown on a large video screen at the corner of South Salina and Jefferson Streets, which will be closed to vehicular traffic.
Net proceeds of the premiere will benefit Syracuse University’s Ernie Davis Fund. The Fund’s purposes include sustaining academic and personal development programming for football student athletes and their involvement in the ‘Cuse Cares Community Service Program.
Tickets for the fundraiser are priced at $1,000 and include the movie premiere at the Landmark; the post-movie gala and the opportunity to interact with the stars of the movie, SU athletic greats such as Jim Brown and Floyd Little, and other SU alumni from the sports and entertainment industries. A limited number of reduced-price tickets will be available through a lottery and promotional contests. Public sale of tickets will start in early August.
Additionally, plans are being formulated to create a community event on the night of Oct. 3, the date of the national release.
“We’re elated the studio has chosen Syracuse to host the premiere,” said Syracuse University Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross. “We intend to embrace this extraordinary moment to honor the legacy of Ernie Davis and provide a unique, star-studded showcase to launch this extraordinary film.
“Ernie is the most endearing icon we have in a storied football program so rich in talent and tradition. It’s truly fitting that his life story will be immortalized on film.”
“I’m overjoyed that ‘The Express’ will have its premiere in Syracuse,” said director Gary Fleder.
“Our last day of filming took place on the SU campus, and I can say without a doubt that it was the most emotional of our schedule.
“Being there brought into focus why celebrating Ernie was significant. It mattered to the folks who knew him, and it will mean something to the millions who will get to know Ernie after the film opens in October.”
“Ernie Davis is a true American hero,” said SU chancellor Nancy Cantor. “While his legacy is not as well known, he played an important role in shaping the American conscience, just as Jackie Robinson did. Thanks to ‘The Express,’ Ernie’s legacy and inspirational life story will find the audience and appreciation it deserves.”
In addition to the events of Friday evening, several special activities are scheduled in association with the premiere.
Ron Meyer, President and COO of Universal Pictures, Director Fleder and others yet to be announced will conduct master class workshops with SU students earlier in the day on Friday. And they, along with cast members Dennis Quaid and Rob Brown, SU football greats Jim Brown and Floyd Little, and members of the 1959 national championship team, will take
part in a Friday press conference on the Quad.
On Saturday, a special pre-game party will be held on the Quad prior to the Syracuse-Penn State football game, the renewal of a long-time rivalry that kicks off at 3:30 and will be televised on ABC.
A star-studded tribute to Davis will be featured at halftime, highlighted by the unveiling of a specially commissioned Ernie Davis statue. Members of the Davis family are scheduled to be in attendance for the weekend events, as are Schwartzwalder’s wife, Reggie, and their daughters.
More information on the premiere and Ernie Davis-including a Davis biography and photos, video features, the movie trailer and publicity shots, and background on “The Legend of 44” and the historic 1959 season-is available online at www.erniedavis.syr.edu.