Rudy tried to get Notre Dame interested in a movie about his story, but they would have none of it. In fact, Notre Dame refused to allow any movie to be filmed on campus. The last movie filmed there was in 1939.
Then, Rudy got what he thought was a big break. A Notre Dame football player liked Rudy’s story and put him in touch with Jason Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of That Championship Season and an actor known for his title role in The Exorcist. Rudy met up with Jason in a bar in Scranton PA and pitched his story. Jason loved it. Rudy was on his way!
Or so he thought. Miller loved the project, but was just too busy with other projects.
So, Rudy took matters into his own hands and hired Miller’s ghostwriter himself. For $1000 a month plus room and board (he moved in with Rudy), the ghostwriter worked on it. But the whole thing was a disaster. Rudy eventually had to evict the writer after he set Rudy’s kitchen on fire.
The whole process went in fits and starts. Frank Capra, Jr., son of the famous director of the same name, became attached to produce. When a meeting with Notre Dame proved fruitless, Capra backed out.
Rudy heard that Angelo Pizzo, the writer of Hoosiers was interested. So, Rudy flew out to meet him. Pizzo stood Rudy up. Angry, Rudy tracked down Pizzo at his house. Pizzo wasn’t interested in doing another sports movie, but he agreed to have lunch anyway. Rudy hoped he might reconsider. He left Los Angeles discouraged and defeated.
FOLLOW YOUR PASSION INSTEAD OF THE DOLLAR
Things got worse. Rudy lost his job. He had split his focus between his job and his dream, and both had suffered.
Losing his job taught Rudy an important lesson that he shares with his audiences today. “For me, decisions based on my passion brought me closer to my Dream, while decisions based only on money took me further away. There is nothing wrong with making money, but it’s important to focus on your passion instead of the dollar.”
That lesson would pay off. Pizzo had never forgotten Rudy’s story or his passion. When Rob Fried at TriStar asked him if he had any sports stories, he told Fried about Rudy. TriStar wanted to make Rudy’s movie.
FOCUS ON YOUR DREAM AND NEVER QUIT
There were still hurdles to clear. Rudy had worked on the film for so long that he had to buy out all the people from his past who wanted a piece of the action. And Notre Dame had still not agreed to allow Rudy to film on campus. So much of Pizzo’s script revolved around the mystique of Notre Dame, there was no way TriStar would make the film without access to the school.
Through it all, whenever a roadblock got in the way, Rudy wouldn’t quit.
Finally, after twenty years of blood, sweat, and tears, cameras rolled on Rudy. Rudy had proven that if you focus on your dream and never quit, anything is possible.
EXCUSES WILL KILL YOUR DREAM
The production had problems, but the film crew knew they were making something special.
One of those challenges occurred on the most important day of the entire shoot. The university agreed to let the producers shoot the climax of the movie during an actual Notre Dame football game. The scenes would be shot during halftime, and the film crew had exactly six minutes to get everything they needed.
The stadium was full of 59,000 actual screaming fans. An NFL film crew was brought in to shoot the scenes just like a real football game. But, just as Sean Astin and the 1975 Fighting Irish were set to take the field, the crew’s communications system failed. No one knew what to do. Finally, someone, who remains a mystery, shouted to the actors, “Go, go, go!”
Rudy remembers the moment when Sean Astin recreated his famous tackle.
“Sean nailed it—soaring through the air and sacking that Georgia Tech quarterback with all the gusto I did back in 1975. It was awesome! It was like leaving my own body and watching myself through the lens of history.”
With that iconic scene complete, Rudy was a wrap.
Rudy, the movie, would go on to become a worldwide hit and an instant classic. Those seven seconds and the crowd chanting “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” would become one of the most iconic moments in film. The real Rudy became an instant celebrity; he was interviewed by major media outlets and was invited to the White House for a special screening of Rudy for the President of the United States.
Rudy had dreamed two giant dreams and lived to make both of them come true. What could be next?
ALWAYS HAVE A DREAM
“When you have fulfilled one dream, dream again.”
Rudy needed a new dream.
“For the first time in my life, I prepared myself for what would happen after the dream came true. I prepared myself for the future. And that would make all the difference.”
Rudy wanted to share his experiences with the world, to help people believe in themselves and go for their dreams. One day, he got an invitation to speak in front of a group of fourth and fifth graders right in South Bend, IN.
He worked tirelessly on his speech and even brought in one of his football coach buddies to give some pointers.
In spite of all his preparation, Rudy bombed. The kids thought they were going to meet Sean Astin, not this “imposter”. Yet that first awkward speech led to countless others. Rudy honed his technique and now speaks all over the country to corporations, elementary schools, young and old alike. For the last twenty years, Rudy has touched countless lives with his message of following your dreams as far as they can take you.
Rudy also founded two organizations to support his mission, Rudy International and The Rudy Foundation. His goal is to help other “Rudys” out there. His foundation awards thousands of dollars annually to kids who are pursuing unlikely dreams.
Rudy’s dream now is to spread hope.
“The most powerful thing you can give someone is HOPE.”
Rudy Ruettiger wanted to see his Dad’s eyes light up. In pursuing that dream, Rudy changed the course of many lives. Now, he is lighting up young people everywhere, inspiring them to dream and helping make their dreams real.
Way back in 1975, Rudy was faced with a decision. His name did not appear on that roster. But, instead of giving up, he stayed in the game; he went to that practice.
Later, as his teammates were carrying him off the field in victory, as that massive crowd cheered his name, he thought to himself, “I almost quit! I almost quit! I was so close to quitting!”
And that lesson, to never quit, is the greatest lesson of all.
Rudy says, “When you think about it, the cycle of inspiration never ends. One dream leads to another. I marvel at that every day.”