BY MIKE MASTOVICH
Peter Steinfeld spent much of Tuesday taking in the sights in downtown Johnstown and the Cambria County War Memorial arena.
The Hollywood screenwriter was armed with a camera phone as he documented images such as the Inclined Plane and the Johnstown Chiefs sharing ice time with Special Olympians.
Steinfeld, 41, soaked up the atmosphere and talked to numerous people as he delved into a project almost certain to excite the region’s hockey fans and movie buffs.
He is writing a screenplay for a potential Universal Studios remake of the 1977 motion picture “Slap Shot,” which starred Paul Newman and was filmed in Johnstown.
“This is not a sequel,” said Steinfeld, the screenwriter of the soon-to-be released film “21” starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne and Jim Sturgess.
“I am going to try to adhere to the original movie as best as I can,” Steinfeld said. “At the same time, it can’t be just a retread of the original. It would have to reflect how the world has changed and how the town has changed in the last 31 years. There have been huge changes to hockey in that time.”
Steinfeld said he has received support from Universal, which filmed the original “Slap Shot” here in spring 1976.
He cautioned that nothing is official.
Even if his script eventually is approved, that doesn’t guarantee that a remake would be filmed here.
But that doesn’t mean Steinfeld won’t push Johnstown as his ideal location.
“I think the reason why this area lends itself really well to making a movie here is that it’s a downtown that actually has a heart and it’s a downtown that actually has a central location and central meeting place,” Steinfeld said. “All I can do really is the best job I can to make it really Johnstown-specific, which is what my intention is.
“I would love to see the movie happen here. But I’m not the president of Universal.
“But there are so many reasons to have the movie happen here. A: The original took place here and there is history. B: What’s happened to this town in the last 31 years, economic ups and downs. Then there is the geography of how things are located within pretty close proximity to each other. All of that lends itself really well to production.”
Original “Slap Shot” director George Roy Hill used the region’s steel mills, restaurants and bars as well as the War Memorial. The movie’s screenplay, written by Nancy Dowd, sister of Johnstown Jets player Ned Dowd, was based on the 1974-75 Jets, who went from worst to first in winning a Lockhart Cup title.
“The great thing about the movie to me is that it captured what it must have been really like,” said Steinfeld, a New Jersey native who grew up playing hockey on a frozen lake. “Really, the movie is a drama punctuated by great use of comic relief.
“That’s why, 30-some years later, people still talk about the movie and the movie is considered one of the greatest sports comedies of all time.”
Asked whether the infamous Hanson Brothers would be in the screenplay, Steinfeld didn’t hesitate.
“You have to work the Hansons into the movie,” Steinfeld said of the rowdy, bespectacled characters who often stole scenes from the likes of Newman and Michael Ontkean.
“I think people would really be let down if the Hansons were not in the movie. They are such an iconic part of that classic. They still are very visible guys.”
Former Jets Steve and Jeff Carlson joined teammate Dave Hanson in portraying the movie brothers, who were based on the Carlsons and their brother, Jack.
“Another great thing that George Roy Hill did was using real hockey players and real people from the town in the movie,” Steinfeld said. “It makes the movie feel more real. As filmmakers, it’s our job to find the perfect blend of actors and athletes.”
When Johnstown landed another professional hockey team in 1988, the name Chiefs was used in honor of the movie’s Charlestown Chiefs. Tonight, Steinfeld will watch the Johnstown Chiefs play the Reading Royals at the War Memorial.
He hopes to have his writing completed this spring.
“Granted, I ran into a three-month writers strike hiccup. I was actually planning on coming here in November, but I’m a union member, so I couldn’t,” Steinfeld said.
After the writing is done, the screenplay’s fate will be in the studio’s hands.
“I hope they like what they see.”
Home: Grew up in New Jersey; lives in California.
Resume: Screenwriter for movies including “Drowning Mona” (2000), “Analyze That” (2002), “Be Cool” (2005) and “21,” due out in March. Has worked as an actor and television producer.
Local link: Writing a screenplay for a remake of the 1977 motion picture “Slap Shot.” Nothing is official, but Universal Studios is interested.