Movie magic at the U of C


The University campus turned into Syracuse University Monday for the filming of Universal Studios’ The Express. The movie stars Rob Brown as Syracuse running back Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. Dennis Quaid costars as Syracuse’s legendary coach, Ben Schwartzalder.

Jones and Kent Laboratories served as a backdrop for an outdoor evening scene between Davis and his romantic interest, Sarah Ward, played by Nicole Behaire Brown. Across campus, production staff transformed Ida Noyes Hall’s dark-wood lobby into a Syracuse trophy room. The director placed a photo of Jay Berwanger, AB’36, the first Heisman Trophy winner, among the “Syracuse” memorabilia for the scene after learning about the U of C’s football glory.

Nick Rafferty, X’03, who said he “fell into the [film] industry” after interning for the 2004 production of Proof, helped scout the location. The University is “a gorgeous space,” Rafferty said, able “to portray the history and grandeur” of Syracuse athletics.

The Express paid the University a $24,000 location fee, which will support student filmmaking and performance through groups such as Fire Escape Films and University Theater, said University assistant vice president for student life, Bill Michel, AB’92.

The film was shot across Chicagoland this spring. Other locations include area high schools and Northwestern University’s Ryan Field, which provided the setting for a racially motivated brawl between the Syracuse and University of Texas teams during the 1960 Cotton Bowl. Filming for The Express will conclude filming at Syracuse next week.

The Express is based on Robert Gallagher’s 1999 biography, Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express, the Story of a Heisman Trophy Winner. Shortly after being the top pick in the 1962 draft, Davis was diagnosed with leukemia and died the following year at age 23. He never played a professional game.

The film will be released in October 2008.

Ethan Frenchman, ’08

Photos: Trailers lined both sides of 59th Street between University and Kimbark Avenues; Universal Studios film equipment sits outside Ida Noyes.

June 22, 2007