The Parthenon

It's official: 'We Are...Marshall'

Studio confirms title and producer Basil Iwanyk gives details of film
By: Matt Haught
Issue date: 2/14/06 Section: News

The Marshall University plane crash movie has a name: "We Are…Marshall."

A representative from Warner Bros. confirmed the movie's title would come from the school's primary cheer at athletic events.

"Once you see the movie you will understand why Warner Bros. would want to call it 'We Are…Marshall,'" Dr. H. Keith Spears, vice president for communications and marketing, said.

Basil Iwanyk, the film's producer, said it is as much of a personal endeavor as a business venture.

"You get behind some movies because they're fun and entertaining and you get behind some because they mean something to you," Iwanyk said. "This is one of those movies that means something to you."

Iwanyk, a 1992 graduate of Villanova University, said he knew about Marshall through its fierce reputation in I-AA football. He did not, however, know the story behind the program.

The movie's idea began when Iwanyk heard the story of a 1958 plane crash which killed eight members of the Manchester United soccer team. He presented that idea to his coworkers when Mary Viola, associate producer of the film, asked if he had considered the Marshall crash.

"I said, 'No, I don't know anything about it; is there a story there?'" Iwanyk said. "And she said, 'I think you'll be surprised by it.'"

Viola researched the crash and gave her findings to Iwanyk to review.

"After I read the story from the research, I thought to myself, 'My God, this is it,'" he said.

Iwanyk said the story is about grief and overcoming obstacles. He said he feels this story is one viewers will be able to make their own.

"My hope is people will want to go back to it because it will help them find strength," he said. "It's about people who go through tremendous devastation and loss and how they triumph afterward."

Iwanyk stressed the movie would not show any of the crash.

"We will go from being inside the plane to showing the aftermath," he said. "We will not show any fire. You can underline that 10 times."

While Iwanyk said the story would have a happy ending, it will also tell of the struggles that came in the two decades following the crash.

"The real story didn't end with everyone living happily ever after," he said. "There was this gradual progression to the excellence of the program today. They slowly rose up."

The movie will not dramatically alter history.

"There's the spirit of the law and the letter of the law; this is in the spirit of the law," Iwanyk said. "It will be extremely close."

He said the movie would revolve around the two main coaches, Jack Lengyel and Red Dawson; university president Donald Dedmen, and football player Nate Ruffin, defensive back for the 1970 team who did not make the trip. There will also be three main fictional characters, the parents of a football player killed in the crash and the girlfriend of another player killed.

"We wanted to stay as true to the story as possible, but obviously there is some poetic license," Iwanyk said.

Iwanyk said the company is using professional football players as consultants for the movie. They are currently seeking pros who went to Marshall for advice.

"I want to get Chad Pennington involved," Iwanyk said. "I am a huge Jets fan and a huge Chad fan. I want Chad's opinion, 85 percent because I just want to meet him and also because I want his insight for the movie."

Shooting for the film on campus is scheduled to begin March 20 and students can still apply to be extras via the Web site