Vince Papale is Invincible

Former Philadelphia Eagle discusses what it was like having a film made about his life.

If Vince Papale isn't living the American Dream than I don't know who is. For one lifetime, becoming a pro football player for the Philadelphia Eagles at the age of 30 would be enough of an accomplishment. Then to have Disney take your story and turn it into the major motion picture Invincible (starring Mark Wahlberg no less), one might start to wonder if they deserved such amazing good fortune.

One might start wondering... if they weren't Vince Papale.

With the movie now on DVD, we recently sat down with the subject of Invincible to discuss what it's like to have your dreams come true, seeing your life on the big screen and what he has coming up next.

What's it like to have your dreams come true the way that they have for you?

Vince Papale: How about startling, amazing, incredible, stupendous, overwhelming any hyperbole you could possibly imagine. I guess people would perceive the biggest dream is me having made the Philadelphia Eagles and having a movie made about me. Also, the same things happened when I met my wife and married her, and had the birth of my children; they're right up there with the big guys. It's pretty wild. Right now I'm living the dream. I'm not even sure when reality is ready to check in yet.

How did the project of Invincible come together?

Vince Papale: The NFL, 4 years ago, wanted to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Rocky. NFL Films, in conjunction with the NFL and ESPN... they put together a piece featuring me that had some references to Rocky, because we were both 30 year old guys. It was shown on November 25, 2002. Then the next day we were contacted by producers from all over the country, mostly Hollywood, about making my life story into a movie. We knew at that point that Disney had seen the piece and they had shown some interest in it, but they wanted some substance, they wanted a story.

So the producer, Ken Mok, from 10X10 Entertainment... he convinced a screenwriter by the name of Brad Gann to write a spec script. We put a spec script together, I optioned my life rights over to them, at tremendous cost to me, and that screenplay was purchased by Disney in October two years ago. One thing led to another, they gave us a greenlight and here it is we're two days into the release of the DVD. It happened fast.

What was it like being a consultant on the film?

Vince Papale: That was crazy, to have so much input into it. I did a lot of consulting especially from the football end of things, and I sat down with Mark Ellis from Real Sports, he shot the second unit. I spent a lot of time with him choreographing all the football action. Also, working with Mark Wahlberg, through his coach who they had for him. Making sure he understood how I played, how I caught the ball, some of the nuances he would want to pick up on. Things that would happen with that era of football.

One thing that people forget with Mark, he never put shoulder pads on before in his life. For somebody to have to try and catch a football, with shoulder pads on, that's not an easy thing, you have to get used to that; also, wearing a helmet, that's tough. Back in that day, we had to get in a three point stance, today the wide receivers don't get in the three point stance... so there were a lot of things that had to be taught with Mark and I had a big part in that. I feel pretty good about my contribution to the film, aside from the story of course.

Where there a lot of surreal moments being on a movie set about your life?

Vince Papale: I know it was surreal. The surreality was watching it be shown on the silver screen after it was finally shot. I didn't see any of the dailies, so I wouldn't have known. I saw a couple of clips of things that were shown during the day, but watching it unfold in front of you, live action, is so much different once all the sound and music is in and you see it up on the screen, you know? There were some scenes that were absolutely amazing to watch being done. A couple of them were the mud football scenes which were really cool, how they created the mud, how they created the rain. Also, watching the nutcracker scenes, those were one on one scenes where I was being blocked or trying to block a guy. I was right where the cameras were, and I swear that those guys were playing that scene up to me. They wanted to match what they thought my enthusiasm and intensity was.

The ones that effected me the most were watching the filming of the scenes involving the relationship between myself and my Dad. Between Kevin Conway, who played my father in the movie and also Mark Wahlberg. They were very emotional, for me to see those scenes unfold in front of me, at one point I had to leave the set. It effected me a lot.

What are your thoughts on the final film and Mark Wahlberg's portrayal of you?

Vince Papale: What can I say about the film? I was honored that they chose me in the first place, then to see the finish product, I'm just extremely ecstatic about it. I'm humbled and honored that Disney would think enough of me and my story and journey, that they would want to immortalize it and create a legacy by making a movie called Invincible. As far as Mark Wahlberg's performance he's phenomenal. He was absolutely incredible as an actor, what he did on the field as an athlete, he took a lot of the hits, he was pushing the body doubles away half the time because he wanted to make it look as real as it could. He was getting banged up pretty good on the field. What impressed me more about Mark Wahlberg is that Mark is the man. How genuine he is, how generous he was, how sharing he was. He's a nice kid.

What are you currently doing now?

Vince Papale: Well, I've got three major projects. Number One, I'm gonna try to remain as grounded as I can with my family and my kids. I know they've missed me a lot because for the last 3 months I've done 32 cities, touring around doing stuff for the Sallie Mae Fund, the company I work for. And also charities and Vince Papale, I'm doing a lot of motivational speaking. I'm director of Special Projects for the Sallie Mae fund and I'm gonna be speaking throughout the country to kids, at risk, about the importance of getting a High School education. Then moving on to Higher Education, our theme being, "Hold fast to your dreams because the more you learn the more you earn." Thirdly, out on the speaking tour it's quite lucrative. I'm in great demand around the world as a motivational speaker.

I'm sure the movie will be out on ESPN and that'll resurrect it a little bit. I heard it's gonna be on ABC... it's gonna have a life of it's own and every time that happens, like it happened with Jim Morris with The Rookie, once again there's sort of a little bump in the action and people want you to come out and speak. Other than that I just want to be a Dad, so that's cool.

Invincible is currently available on DVD through Walt Disney Video.

Dont't forget to also check out: Invincible