Mark Schlereth isn’t the first actor who used a soap opera stint as a springboard to Hollywood films.
He may be the only one with three Super Bowl rings to do so, though.
The former NFL guard, who won championships with both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins while enduring more than 20 knee surgeries, plays a football coach in “Red Dawn.”
The movie, a reboot of the 1984 cult classic, casts Schlereth as the head coach of the Wolverines, the high school football squad destined to give an invading army a blast of American courage. The remake lets audiences see those Wolverines on the gridiron at long last.
Schlereth is under no illusions about why he got the gig. It’s a small role, but given his perch on ESPN as a color analyst and his large Twitter following it makes sense for the studio to hire him for promotional purposes.
He also proved handy on set.
Schlereth applauds the work down by Mark Ellis, who runs a company which helps Hollywood make authentic sports-related features, but the ex-athlete says he helped tweaked a few pieces of dialogue which simply didn’t ring true to him.
“There’s no football coach in America who would say this,” he says, adding the director and crew were receptive to his feedback.
The football action itself felt like the real thing to him. Too real, in fact. One sequence featured a hit which, he says, “shook me to my core.” And he was on the sidelines at the time.
The behind the scenes drama that kept “Red Dawn” from theaters shook fans of the original film just as hard. First, the movie studio behind the project went bankrupt, a financial hit that also temporarily took down the Bond franchise.
Then, the new “Dawn” endured a politically correct adjustment.
The Chinese government “went ballistic” when it learned the movie featured China as the country invading the United States. So the film endured a collective casting change, transforming the enemy from China to North Korea.
Schlereth is sanguine about the delay. While the film sat on the shelf “Dawn” actors Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson starred in two of the year’s biggest hits in recent memory – “The Avengers” and “The Hunger Games,” respectively.
“In the long run it worked out for the better,” says Schlereth, whose work as an ESPN analyst prevents him from tackling many of the film scripts now coming his way.
Schlereth remembers watching the original “Dawn” back in high school, and he says the current cast and crew had a strong awareness of the film’s fanatical following.
“We want to stay as true to that as we can,” he says.
He hasn’t seen the new “Dawn” yet, but he does understand the allure of the 1984 version.
“There’s a real kind of tight, almost love and respect, to do something for one another, a group aspect,” he says. “It just resonates with people.”