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Former Rittman and College of Wooster basketball standout Steve Thompson is planning to watch the movie "Draft Day" soon. As many sports fans know, it's a drama directed by Ivan Reitman that features fictitious Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (played by Kevin Costner) trying to figure out what to do in the pressure-packed hours leading up to the NFL Draft.
Thompson will watch the film with a much different interest than other moviegoers -- for a few days he helped in the making of the movie!
The "Draft Day" scene of Ohio State hosting Wisconsin was actually filmed at Kent State's Dix Stadium last May. Thompson was the assistant athletic director for facilities and operations at the time and worked with Reitman in setting up KSU's field and stadium to look like Ohio Stadium.
"Most of the movie's filming was in Cleveland, but they needed to film scenes from the Ohio State vs. Wisconsin game at a college stadium," said Thompson, who left KSU to become the athletic director at Eureka College on Jan. 2. "They felt it would be too expensive to take the whole production to Columbus, so they called to see if our field was available."
After a walkthrough by several film execs, they plotted out how they would transform Dix Stadium and struck a deal with Kent State to use the facility for a few days.
For two straight days, workers used temporary paint to put down a "Block O" over the Golden Flashes' logo at midfield. Because it would have been too expensive to re-paint the end zones, it was decided to change them in production using computer graphics, Thompson said. The production crew and many of the actors rolled into Kent a few days later, although Costner did not make the trip.
Rietman and co-stars Josh Pence (who played Wisconsin quarterback Bo Callahan) and Chadwick Boseman (Ohio State linebacker Vontae Mack, also played Jackie Robinson in "42") were the biggest names at Dix Stadium.
Thompson said the producers set up five big cameras and two or three hand-helds, while several green screens he estimated were 20-foot by 20-foot were strategically placed to help digitally add features later in production. About 200 extras, mainly students recruited via Twitter, were asked to wear Ohio State clothes and cheered in front of green screens. The actors dressed in the Kent State locker rooms and filming took place for about a full day, Thompson said.
"It was neat to see them do it, that's for sure," Thompson said. "I met Ivan Reitman and the actors and they were really good guys. They were there for a full day shooting for what turned out to only be about a five-minute part of the movie.
"I had them all sign a football for my son, Luke, who was two months old at the time."
One of Thompson's most memorable moments of the filming was watching them do about 30 takes to finally get a key scene correct in which Mack scoops up a Callahan fumble and scores.
"The ball wouldn't bounce the right way," Thompson recalled. "(Josh Pence) was joking by the end, 'How many more of these are we going to have to do?'
"To see the magic of movie-making was a neat experience. From the painting of the 'Block O' and all the green-screen stuff, in the previews you can't tell it's Dix Stadium but I know it is."