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Football fans get a close-up in 'Silver Linings'
"What makes characters fascinating in a funny and an emotional way to me is when they have life and death stakes about their particular currency," the director says. "So (Robert) De Niro's currency was everything about the Eagles."
As with many things in sports, the Eagles devotion in "Silver Linings Playbook" flows through the father, played by De Niro. He not only makes much of his living from the Eagles as a bookie, but he watches each game at home with obsessive-compulsive ardor. The fortunes of the Solitanos become inextricably linked with that of the Eagles.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, a Philadelphia native who, reached by phone at his home in Massachusetts, makes no bones about his allegiance: "I bleed green," he says.
"My earliest memories of my father are of going down to the Vet," says Quick, referring to Veterans Stadium, the former home of the Eagles. "In the neighborhood I grew up in, the men didn't tell you that they loved you or give you hugs, they took you to Eagles games," says Quick. "If the Eagles scored a touchdown, you got a hug."
"It's such a metaphor for striving," says Quick. "No matter what happens, there's always that next game. There's always that next season."
The plot of "Big Fan" might suggest a more cynical view of football, but Siegel, too, is a lifelong sports fan. Growing up on Long Island, he became a devoted listener to the New York-area sports radio station WFAN. In the film, Oswalt's character is a regular caller, dialing in like a performer with a nightly show.
"The callers seemed like these incredibly vivid, almost movie characters," say Siegel. "You've got these ordinary working Joes taking on the machismo and testosterone of their heroes and doing it anonymously through the radio where it's very safe. It's kind of a form of fantasy play acting."
As he treated a sport usually not taken seriously (professional wrestling) in "The Wrestler," Siegel feels the often-disrespected sports fan is fertile, relatively unexplored territory.
"What (fans) are passionate about might seem silly to the outside observer," says Siegel. "Certainly you could make the case that that's very sad and pathetic, but I don't. I admire their passion and I identify with it."
"Sports fans are outsiders who feel like insiders," he adds, "which is an interesting thing to explore."
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