This weekend “The Express” will start its voyage in theaters nationwide.
The new film, based on the life of college football legend Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the highly coveted, highly celebrated Heisman Trophy, stars Rob Brown in the leading role, and acclaimed actors Dennis Quaid and Charles S. Dutton.
Dutton plays Willie “Pops” Davis in the film, and though he admitted that going into the film he only knew the highlights of Ernie Davis’ story, but he remembered them well.
“I don’t remember the 1959 title game, when Syracuse won, but I do remember him winning the Heisman Trophy in ’61,” veteran actor Dutton said. “I do remember him getting drafted by the Browns because I was from Baltimore, and we were Baltimore Colts fans and when we knew that Cleveland got him, we knew they were going to kill the Colts – with Jim Brown and him in the back field. I remember the news reports of his illness and the picture he took with Kennedy and the remarks Kennedy made when [Davis] passed away and ‘Wide World of Sports’ announcement that he died.”
While Dutton is a much acclaimed actor and director in his own right, he couldn’t help but talk about lead actor Rob Brown and his exceptional job in the film.
“That young guy is great,” he said. “Him and Omar [Benson Miller] both, all the young folks that came in – what I appreciated was that they are really actors. They’re not rappers, they’re not singers, they’re not personalities. They don’t come in with a bullsh*t persona of ‘I’m a tough guy.’ They were eager to learn.”
Dutton continued that he felt the cast did quite well with the film being a very “tough” shoot. He said that because the film is based on a true story and real people, it is often difficult for actors to do their art.
“[When] you’re dealing with a real life, sometimes you get bombarded by the people who actually were there and knew the story,” Dutton warned. “Sometimes actors can get wrapped up in that and say, ‘No, Jim did it like this.’ And ‘I heard Ernie didn’t do that.’ But sometimes you’ve got to let that go and don’t play real life and do a movie.”
However, even with that obstacle, and that fact that director Gary Fleder likes doing lots of takes, Dutton thought the cast did and exceptional job.
“But Rob was so perfect for the role because he’s very introspective as an actor. He’s not so extroverted. Sometimes, even while you’re working with him, it looks like he’s not doing anything. And then you see the film and you’re like, ‘Oh man, it’s in the kid’s eyes.’”
Dutton was not alone in singing the praises of Brown as Davis. He told reporters that even to those that were there, some of Davis’ former teammates, Brown embodied the persona of the legendary athlete.
“Everything that I’ve learned about Ernie Davis and heard from his family, and particularly the class of ’59 – his teammates, they all say the same thing. They say, ‘Watching him in this movie is like watching Ernie Davis.’ Being soft spoken, being pensive,” Dutton described. “It was amazing. To be around eight or nine guys in their 70s and hear them talk about Ernie Davis and all of them start to weep at some time in the conversation, it was just amazing. Even Jim Brown, who ain’t no vulnerable type guy, wells up. Rob is a special kind of young man and a special kind of actor and I think he was the perfect casting.”
“He is less visceral,” he continued, “but more intellectual, but not overly intellectual. He just comes on the set, he’s prepared every day, and when the camera rolls, he just becomes.”
“The Express: The Ernie Davis Story” opens nationwide this Friday. In the meantime, as this film opens, Dutton just wrapped on the film “Legion,” which teams him with Quaid again. He’s now working on projects with HBO, including a Louis Armstrong miniseries.
Watch the trailer from ‘The Express’:
For more on “The Express” go to www.theexpressmovie.com