American Underdog: two former CFL quarterbacks have roles in Kurt Warner movie

Photo courtesy: American Underdog

One of the first quarterbacks who tried to replace Canadian Football Hall of Fame passer Anthony Calvillo plays the role of the quarterback who was replaced by Pro Football Hall of Fame passer Kurt Warner in a new movie.

American Underdog has been in theatres since Christmas and former Montreal Alouettes’ quarterback Tanner Marsh has an important role in the film.

Marsh, who played in La Belle Province from 2013 to 2015, was lured to the film by his connections through the Arena Football League to help out the QB extras who were taking a pounding.

“They were taking some really big hits and so I got a call from a guy I used to play for, Clint Dolezel. He was the head coach for the Philadelphia Soul and when I played for the Cleveland Gladiators for a year, I met a lot of coaches from the AFL,” Marsh said.

“He reached out to me knowing I was in Dallas, the movie was shooting in Oklahoma City, so they needed an extra guy. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be more than happy to do it.’ I came out there, a lot of the guys were there for like a month or a month-and-a-half, I was only there for two weeks.”

His role sounded like that of just another extra to some really important scenes and the same could be said for Ottawa Redblacks’ new quarterbacks coach, Will Arndt, who also played in the CFL.

“Originally, coming in I was an extra for Kurt Warner, any scene you see Kurt Warner throwing the ball, most of the time, it’s Will. Instead of me just being the Kurt Warner double, I got the opportunity to be basically the quarterback that would be the one benched by Kurt Warner, I was usually the backup guy,” Marsh said.

“There’s a scene in there, a college scene, where I actually do a rollout and I throw the ball and get yelled at. It’s pretty funny in the movie, the actor [playing] the college coach actually says, ‘Dammit Tanner!’ He actually calls me by my first name in the movie which is pretty funny.”

“I’m walking to the sideline and you’ll see me take my helmet off and when I get to the sideline, Kurt Warner who is played by Zachary Levi is like, ‘Hey put me in coach! Give me a chance!’ That was a big scene that I got to do.”

“Basically, in all of the other scenes, I was just either the guy in the background or I was the guy snapping the ball for them in some places. In meetings I was the guy in the background. You see me a lot, if you are a big CFL fan and you know what I look like then you will for sure see me a ton in that movie.”

Marsh estimates he was paid somewhere around $200 per day when he practiced for a scene and then $350 per day where he was actually filming or more depending on how many hours of film he had to do on that particular day.

He confirms that extras on big movie sets do in fact work some long hours and he sympathizes with the other quarterbacks who had to grind it out for up to six weeks.

“I don’t know how those guys stayed there that long because we were there sometimes 17-18 hours. You’re standing there not doing anything because technically we’re not part of the union so there’s no control over how long extras have to be there,” Marsh said.

“Luckily, we had Zachary Levi who is a good actor and just a good human being so there were a few times where he was like, ‘Hey these guys should go home.’ That’s because we were out there for a long time. I have this sign on my desk — this is pretty cool — Zachary Levi gave this to all of us quarterbacks when we finished up.”

Photo courtesy: Tanner Marsh

Marsh showed a copy of the note.

Thank you for all your hard work. You’re a Rockstar. Don’t ever forget it. ~Z

The now-retired QB who did pick up some work as an emergency quarterback in the Arena league before his career ended, does lots of work with quarterbacks and some CFL players training in the offseason in his home state of Texas.

He has a good relationship with his position coach from his Alouettes days, Ryan Dinwiddie, now bench boss of the Argos and wouldn’t rule out a return to the CFL or to Canada in general as his fiancé is from Montreal.

“I love Canadian football and I love Montreal, so if a good opportunity comes then I guess we’ll manage it,” Marsh said.

As for the movie itself, it has so far reportedly grossed over $26 million and still has time to catch up to the $100 million grossed by Oliver Stone’s 1999 classic Any Given Sunday, which featured Steamin’ Willie Beamen passes thrown by a young Calgary Stampeders’ backup by the name of Henry Burris. Regardless, Marsh is thrilled with how it all turned out.

“It is a great movie, I even teared up a little. They do a great job of showing Kurt Warner’s life and things you didn’t know about Kurt Warner,” Marsh said. “I’m telling you, you need to go and watch it — it is very, very good.”

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.