The Marshall disaster brought pain and suffering upon an entire community, but that community banded together and rose from the rubble. From that rise came a renewed football program, a strong sense of community, and an opportunity for one local actor to follow his dream.
A graduate of Greenup County High School and Shawnee State University, Charles Farley spent his college years acting in various SSU productions and now can be seen as a regular extra in the Warner Brothers film “We Are Marshall.” Farley plays No. 94 on the Marshall football team sideline group and appears in numerous “reaction shots” to the plays on the field.
The movie chronicles the fall and subsequent rise of the Marshall University football program after a plane carrying 75 members of the Marshall community - mostly players - crashed just minutes before landing, killing everyone on board. The event remains the greatest sports related disaster in American history.
Before being cast Farley was aware of the disaster, but said the magnitude of the story didn't set in until filming.
“I was like ‘Wow. This is actually deeper than I thought,'” Farley said. “You get there and film it and its exactly the way it happened.”
Farley's acting resume includes SSU performances in school productions, such as 2002's ”Search and Destroy,” his first feature role, “Tame the Shrew,” a reality show rewrite of William Shakespeare's “Taming of the Shrew,” the Black Rats Cabaret, and his own film company. Farley and friend Nathan Wheeler operate Rabin Penguins Productions. The duo have produced such films as “P-Town USA,” a movie about a town eerily similar to Portsmouth with an inept mayor, and they are making a film version of Shakespeare's play “As You Like It.”
In high school, Farley played defensive end and tackle for Greenup County. It was his experience in acting as well in football that helped Farley get the role.
“That is one of the reasons I got cast,” said Farley. “I had the acting background as well as the football background.”
The role was a paid one though Farley said the knowledge he gained was invaluable. At SSU, finding props and costumes was a first come first serve basis. With a major studio, things operate a little differently. Farley said actors would show up as early as 4 a.m. to get into wardrobe - and like the stereotype at most D-I colleges, football players got special treatment - and eat. Each scene would take between 20 to 30 shots, but some took much longer.
The scene from the trailers where Matthew McConaughey, who plays new coach Jack Lengyel, is talking to the team around a grave site memorial and delivers the line, “Funerals end today,” was shot somewhere between 80 to 100 times.
“Seeing how things are done as compared to me and my friend's way of doing things (was different),” said Farley. “Things are laid out precisely. Everybody was really nice down there and even if you know nothing about the whole thing, its still moving.
“To me, it means I'm finally getting somewhere with my career,” Farley added. “It's nice to see (this story) recognized.”
Farley was also impressed with the way the movie's producers, directors and even star actors took pains to honor those lost, and the story.
Farley wears No. 94 in the movie, a number not worn by anyone on the 1970 team. The reason for this, according to Farley was the studio would only use the actual numbers if they had permission from the deceased's family.
Though much of the movie was filmed in Huntington W. Va., most of the football scenes were filmed in Atlanta and Jonesboro, Ga. Some scenes, such as the plane crash, were filmed there to avoid forcing residents to relive the tragedy. The football scenes were filmed there because of access to stadiums resembling the old college fields where the Marshall team of the 1970s would have played.
Prior to acting in this film, Farley claimed he was not a fan of McConaughey. Though Farley still doesn't like the usual romantic comedies McConaughey has starred in, such as “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” he has an appreciation for his work.
“I have a lot of respect for him now,” said Farley. “The intensity that he uses and how involved he is, he gives 110 percent all the time.”
Farley added that the cast and McConaughey would go out socially.
Farley also got to know Matthew Fox, who plays Red Dawson and Brian Beegle, who plays Lucas Booth among others.
With the release today, Farley said he wasn't star struck but the experience has stuck with him and he plans to continue acting with the hopes of making it big.
“Being in a big budget movie that is going to be seen, it hits you,” said Farley. “That is always going to be there even if you don't do anything else.”
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com