Tom Callihan was teaching his eighth grade civics class at Westmont Hilltop when ESPN Radio called him on Thursday.
Johnstown’s Brian Subich received a statement from actor Craig T. Nelson.
“I hope you have a great evening as you celebrate the 30th anniversary of ‘All the Right Moves.’ Sorry I cannot join you. I am in Los Angeles shooting the fourth season of my NBC TV series ‘Parenthood,’” Nelson said in the statement emailed to Subich. “When I was there shooting the film, the community of Johnstown could not have been more hospitable. I enjoyed working on the film and my time there. I know your fair city and its citizens were a great part of the film’s success and my wonderful experience there.”
Johnstown High (Ampipe) and Westmont Hilltop (Walnut Heights) will play at 7 p.m. at Trojan Stadium. As part of a celebration of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Tom Cruise motion picture “All the Right Moves,” Johnstown (1-1) will wear Ampipe black-and-gold uniforms while Westmont Hilltop (0-2) will don the red-and-white Walnut Heights jerseys.
The 20th Century Fox movie was filmed in Johnstown in 1983.
Later in the day, Callihan exchanged a few messages on Twitter with actress Lea Thompson.
“That’s so cool. Wish I was there,” Thompson tweeted after she learned of the reunion through The Associated Press.
Thompson sent another tweet about the film - along with a Polaroid piture of her and Tom Cruise together on the set of the film, which can be seen at right, with this message: "For the Johnstown fans of
#AllTheRightMoves a copy of a polaroid of @TomCruise and me. GOOOO BULLDOGS I hope its fun"
It’s safe to assume Thursday was not an ordinary day for Callihan and Subich, two of the “All the Right Moves” reunion organizers.
“ESPN called me when I was in the middle of teaching and they asked if they could call me back for an interview at 4:30,” said Callihan, the Westmont Hilltop athletic director who had a role as an Ampipe player in the movie. “The publicity of this thing is taking on a life of its own. After the story ran in the newspaper, there must have been more than 100 people who joined our Facebook group.”
Thompson even made a video message for the people of Johnstown, which can be seen below.
“It has really snowballed in the past day,” said Subich, a Johnstown assistant coach whose wife, Theresa, was an extra in the film. “I think it’s great for the community. It’s great for our kids. One of the things I’ve always preached to the kids at Johnstown is the tradition that Johnstown football has. ‘All the Right Moves’ is a part of that tradition.
“Seeing all of this explode in the last day and a half is shining a positive light on our community.”
The Associated Press picked up the story after a feature-length article and eight photographs taken during filming of the movie appeared on the front page of Thursday’s Tribune-Democrat.
In addition to the local media, television stations in Pittsburgh mentioned the reunion. Pittsburgh-area newspapers have indicated to Johnstown officials they’d cover the game, which also will be carried on ROOT Sports.
Cheerleaders, band members and many people who had roles in the movie either as football players and coaches or as extras have been invited to attend.
Scholarships will be presented to a player from each team in conjunction with the event.
“The AP picked it up?” Callihan asked rhetorically. “Wow.
“ESPN Radio wanted to know stuff like what Tom Cruise was like back in the day, what actor I hung out with the most and how the kids are taking all of this,” Callihan added, referring to an interview by ESPN Altoona-State College’s Cory Giger. “After 30 years, do they know about the movie? I said they’re having fun but once that kickoff goes, it’s a big conference rivalry football game.”
Both Subich and Callihan were informed of Thompson’s tweet and each seized an opportunity to send a message to the actress.
“Lea Thompson tweeted that it was cool and she wished she could be here,” Callihan said. “So I tweeted her, and she tweeted back.”
This won’t be an average weekend for former Aliquippa High School coach Don Yannessa, who served as a technical director for “All the Right Moves” and played the Walnut Heights coach in the movie.
Yannessa will provide tonight’s ceremonial coin toss.
“I won the game the last time I was there,” Yannessa joked, referring to Walnut Heights’ last-second victory over Ampipe in the artificially created rain and mud at Point Stadium. “I’d like to go 2-0 in Johnstown.”
Yannessa’s job included conditioning the actors and extras on the football teams. The movie used his football dialogue and strategies, which added realism to the game action.
“They gave me a lot of latitude. They used all of my terminology. I set up all the practices,” Yannessa said. “I hired seven high school coaches from the Johnstown area – Corky McCabe, Chuck Sponsky, Don Bailey and guys from Windber, Johnstown High School and Johnstown Vo-Tech. Those guys worked for me and got paid by 20th Century Fox.
“We had to take all those kids who made up those two teams and we practiced them three weeks in row so that we could have them in real good condition. We got these guys whipped into shape and we started filming all those scenes.”
The actors’ ability to adapt to the sport impressed Yannessa.
“Craig T. Nelson wasn’t a coach though he later made a career as Coach (in a popular TV series),” Yannessa said. “Tom Cruise was a lacrosse guy in high school. The other actors weren’t football players. When the guys from Johnstown and Windber went after them, they really wanted to tattoo them. We had to tell them to pull back.
“We actually put Tom Cruise in the hospital at Memorial twice. It got to the point where (Executive Producer) Gary Morton said we have to pull him out of these scenes. I went to Cruise at the hospital and told him we were going to double for him. Cruise refused. He said it had to be real. He was a tough kid. He could have really been a football player if he wanted to be.”
The By George Inn adjacent to Point Stadium and late owner Frank George made an impact on Yannessa.
“The two months I spent there on location, I really got to like the people in Johnstown. They were just nice people,” Yannessa said. “I got to be good friends with a lot of them, especially Frankie George of the By George Inn. I got to be really close to him. We used to go in after we worked all day, Craig T. Nelson and some of the other actors.
“We just met all those good people in Johnstown. They were my kind of people. I’m an Aliquippa guy. They were good, blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth people.”
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