Filming Rudy's Football Scenes Left Sean Astin Beaten And Bruised

"Rudy" is the quintessential sports movie. The story of an undersized underdog overcoming the doubters and getting a chance to play in the big game is the sort of thing that affirms people's love of both sports and movies. Add the lovable charm of a young Sean Astin, and you've got a movie that's held up as a classic in the feel-good sports genre for years.

The film tells the story of a young man who dreams his whole life of playing football at Notre Dame, but lacks the grades, money, or athletic ability to accomplish it. Through hard work and perseverance, Rudy goes from working at a steel mill after high school to getting to Notre Dame, where he manages to join the football team's practice squad.

The Rudy in the movie needs to take his licks in order to get recognition. He shows his heart and effort at every turn, even taking a beating in the process. Unfortunately, it seems that Sean Astin had to do a bit of that too during the filming of the movie. In an interview with Yahoo! in 2018, Astin recalled his desire to do as much of his own stunt work as possible, and the physical toll it took on him.

Keeping it authentic

As with any sports movie, there's plenty of fast-paced on-field action in "Rudy." These football scenes made up a lot of the film's most exciting sequences, and Astin wasn't about to skimp on the believability.

"I think we all understood that I had to do enough of it so that it was credible," said Astin, also known for his role in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "There are no car crashes in the movie, there are no gunfights. It's the physical stuff that's the most exciting stuff in the movie, and if you don't believe that the main guy is doing it, I think you couldn't enjoy the movie. You wouldn't believe it."

Of course, Astin didn't do all of his stunts. "They wouldn't let me do some of it, because you have to be able to speak the next day," quipped the star. Astin's stunt double would take the most extreme of the hits, including one sequence where he just gets clobbered 15 times. Astin believes the stunt double eventually needed surgery following the movie.

At points during filming, Astin was eagerly asking to take part in scenes, specifically a brutal "Mud Bowl" sequence. He said: 

"I really wanted to do it, and they finally let me do it. There's just pure physics involved when a guy is 6 foot 1 and weighs 300 pounds — it hurts, and you can get really hurt without too much trying."

Worth the pain

It was because of this enthusiasm that, despite his stunt double, Astin did not come out unscathed. "I got lots of bruises, and I would take Polaroid pictures of those bruises," said Astin, humorously recalling him hanging up the Polaroids of his injuries like paintings in his house.

Outside of "Lord of the Rings," Astin's role in "Rudy" is probably the one he is most known for. The movie's success afforded him many opportunities, including a chance to star in a parody KFC commercial that poses as a trailer for "Rudy II."

All these years later, Astin reports that the movie still makes him cry, in an interview with the Huffington Post in 2015. "When that music is playing, and these ideas are happening, Jon Favreau says, 'Who's the wild man now?' and this little guy who dreamed of something finally gets his dream, that would be pretty cynical not to be moved by that," said the actor.

There's a common idea that you need to suffer for art. The greatest artists need to put so much of themselves and their being into perfecting their art that they must feel pain, they must not enjoy it. But Sean Astin's time filming "Rudy" proves that you can both enjoy making art, and suffer for it.