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  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

Rudy - Director's Cut

Anyone who knows the Fighting Irish from the University of Notre Dame may likely be familiar with the story of Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger. Even then, those who don't know the Fighting Irish may have at least learned of him through the 1993 sports biopic, arguably one of the most inspirational sports films ever made, starring Sean Astin.


How I became acquainted with the film was a little more personal. My father went to the University of Notre Dame himself from 1968 to 1972, participating in the Fighting Irish's cheerleading squad before he graduated. Yet, he achieved it just before Rudy came along and made a splash in sports history as the persistent dreamer who made the impossible possible by scoring the Fighting Irish's finishing blow against Georgia Tech in 1975.


I first saw a good chunk of this film at my grandmother's house when I was young, and this movie has had a special place in my heart since then.


Just recently, on Rudy's 30th anniversary, director David Anspaugh surprised fans like me with news concerning a new Director's Cut to be released of the film. If you remember my thoughts on The Godfather Coda, some scenes could be rearranged, or some new scenes would be added in, all to add more context to the story as the director envisioned it. Needless to say, I was looking forward to this.

After seeing Rudy's recently unearthed cut, I can safely assure you that the new scenes added to this picture did not disappoint.


I don't feel the need to go into details about the story since you probably already know that by now, especially if you read my review of Rudy. So, this will be more of a review and breakdown of the new scenes added to Rudy and how much context they add to the film altogether.


So, where to begin?


To start, just after Rudy tried and failed to board the touring bus to see the University of Notre Dame, the following scene showed Rudy and his family having dinner at a social gathering around Christmastime. After Rudy steered his brother Frank's attention to Fighting Irish player Tommy Bendel, who was attending, it prompted a discussion about why Notre Dame was so special. Then, Daniel Sr. told them about how his father moved to America with his family as immigrants to achieve a better life. His father remembered seeing many young boys playing football and looking at Notre Dame like it was the place to be for playing that sport, hence Daniel Sr.'s devotion to the football team. Yet, it only added to Rudy's discontent because of his desire to be a football player for Notre Dame and not just a fan of it.


Outside of this scene showcasing how the Ruettigers became Notre Dame fans, this scene also showed that Frank was married before Rudy went to Notre Dame. Biopics should shed as much light on their subjects and their families as possible and do so in the proper doses. While Frank's wife appeared only in this one scene and probably could've used a little more screen time, it still further painted Frank in a complex light regarding his life, and not just Rudy's.


The next scene to discuss may have shown Rudy's supposed girlfriend, Sherry Walinski, in a more self-righteous manner than I would've expected. Whenever she was around Rudy, she always proclaimed herself as his girlfriend and even arranged some things for her and Rudy’s future together as she thought Rudy would’ve wanted it. In the Theatrical Cut, when Rudy tells her his plans to go to South Bend in the church during his best friend Pete's funeral, she lets him down, like she understood why he needed to do it, even if it wasn't what she wanted. A part of me felt like her being his longtime friend was what made her be gentle with her dismissal. But in the Director's Cut, they both talked about it outside rather than inside the church, and Rudy admitted to her that what she had in mind for herself and Rudy was not the kind of life he wanted. Even though it was generally subdued, and while she did not lash out at him, it's still slightly evident that she did not take that well, unlike in the Theatrical Cut. It goes to show you that as close as she was to Rudy and his family – she even recommended to Rudy what his father recommended about taking a couple weeks off to grieve his best friend's death – there's still a sense that she wanted to have things arranged for herself and Rudy without thinking to look more into Rudy and his dreams.

The next new scene highlights Rudy's other attempts to make it into Notre Dame despite attending the Holy Cross Community College at the time. In the Director's Cut, he snuck into the weightlifting room with someone else’s pass, where some of the other Notre Dame football players were working out, to blend in and get to know some of them better. Among them was Jamie O'Hara, along with Mateus and the team captain, Roland Steele. They got off to an almost awkward start before Rudy settled in more and got to know Jamie as he worked out. I didn't think this was how he would've met them even before he became a fellow Notre Dame football player, but what Rudy did to them before he joined them for the Fighting Irish still made for a decent first impression to drive on them.


On the contrary, half the other extra scenes that followed surprisingly give more substance and character to fellow Notre Dame college student Mary McDonald. In the Theatrical Cut, she was introduced as a Notre Dame representative as she invited other students to partake in extracurricular activities around campus. Rudy wanted to join to make it into Notre Dame in any way possible. But Mary apologetically turned him down when he drunkenly slipped about him being a Holy Cross student instead of a Notre Dame student. From there, I didn't see her for the rest of the movie outside of one scene as Rudy partook in the field, where, as he passed her by, he asked, 'Don't I know you?' It made the chances of a romance between them after the game look somewhat likely.


But in the Director's Cut, more scenes were added that exposed more of Mary's character, pursuits, and major, which, in this case, happened to be sports journalism. And yes, she and Rudy did start developing a slight relationship. I'll admit, because I wasn't familiar with Rudy before I watched the movie from beginning to end, I noticed some promotional clips and making-of pieces associated with the movie that made me think that Mary was one of the film's major supporting characters. That is why I felt a little bummed to see her not get as much attention as I thought she would have had. She seemed like an interesting character, as did the actress playing her, Greta Lind. So, when I saw more of Mary in the Director's Cut, what I at first thought would've felt too much like sweeteners for the film –­ and I do acknowledge how others may look at these like they could detract from the 'sports' portion of Rudy – retrospectively felt welcomed instead. I just don't recall whether Rudy Ruettiger met anyone in real life who became close to him as a partner and was also into sports journalism, as Mary was.

As for what I do recall, I remember Rudy meeting up with many girls, but only because he was seeking the girl who'd possibly be interested in his friend, D-Bob. So, in the Director's Cut, it felt nice to see Rudy have his own shot at romance when he wasn't busy being D-Bob's matchmaker. On top of that, the new scenes centering on Mary portray her as a keen and affectionate young lady who seemingly shared Rudy's aspirations. She also did what she thought was in her best interest to further her career pursuits and help Rudy out when he was on the verge of making a name for himself. Plus, their relationship felt very modest yet lovely to watch. There's no arguing between them and they left a more substantial likelihood that they slowly but surely were on their way to becoming a good couple.


Here's what else I remember from the Theatrical Cut. During Rudy's time away from Notre Dame, he visited his family in Joliet for Christmas. But his stay was short-lived after thinking about Notre Dame and seeing Sherry get together with his older brother, Johnny. Then, he immediately lunged back into Notre Dame. At that point, I looked at it as if perhaps Rudy felt slightly hurt by Sherry going out with Johnny instead of him and that his drive to become a professional football player for the Fighting Irish was too good to resist.


In the Director's Cut, however, Rudy went home not just to visit his family for Christmas but because this was when he started to second-guess his potential as a football player for the Fighting Irish. After talking to Father John Cavanaugh about it, he responded, 'Maybe you should go home' as if to say that maybe he didn't believe Rudy had a chance to make it to the Fighting Irish, either. Only then did Rudy go home because that's what he initially thought of doing instead of going to Notre Dame. But then, Rudy saw Sherry, who, in this cut, I felt was prompted to date Johnny after being rejected by Rudy earlier. Seeing her then reminded Rudy of what he had put up with from his friends and family about his potential as a football player. And it prompted him to not give up on his dreams just yet and lunge back to Notre Dame. So, the beginning scene of this sequence was one of the new scenes that added the proper context necessary to lend the movie some extra substance.

Before the big game against Georgia Tech, a new scene showed Rudy meeting up with Father John Cavanaugh as he was leaving the church for good. During their chat, Cavanaugh admitted to Rudy that watching him never give up on his dreams despite all the obstacles he had to confront made him acknowledge what he had forgotten on his road to the priesthood. And that, if anything, it inspired him to consider being a missionary, specifically in Bangladesh. Who’d have thought that Rudy’s influence would’ve spread out to those outside of the sports circle? And besides, this was a nice parting scene for the two of them.


The following scene showed Rudy meeting with ex-NFL-coach – and Ara Parseghian’s replacement as Notre Dame coach – Dan Devine in his office to talk to him about dressing up for the Fighting Irish's forthcoming game, to which he turned him down, reassuring him that he only 'has a shot.' In the Theatrical Cut, Devine only appeared in his office when the Fighting Irish football players decided to request that Rudy dress up in their place by handing off their jerseys to him one by one, starting with Roland Steele. So, this extra scene of Dan turning Rudy down to dress up for the game in the Director's Cut further demonstrates how much Rudy tried to make a name for himself and how much his persistence and drive inspired his fellow Notre Dame football players. So, that made a world of difference here.


Now, what are the highlights of the new scenes centered around Mary? I can think of a few things outside her wanting to pursue sports journalism. I must note that many of these scenes occurred after Rudy was finally accepted into the University of Notre Dame. As he and Mary got together and hung out more, Rudy's climb into fame among the Fighting Irish prompted Mary to consider interviewing him as part of an article she was putting together. At first, Rudy wondered what there was to report about someone like him. But then, he promised Mary that if he became successful in dressing up for one of the Fighting Irish's upcoming games, she'd have his permission to write and publish it. This seemed touching because one of his other objectives with dressing up was as a wish fulfillment for his father. Later, when Rudy became more unsure of whether he'd dress up for the upcoming Fighting Irish game, he and Mary went together to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to light some prayer candles, partially as a favor Rudy asked Mary to do for him.


One thing I found intriguing about Mary in this scene is that 'she didn't believe in that kind of stuff,' in reference to lighting the candles to send forth prayers. That got me wondering: might she have been an Atheist, or did she follow a separate religion from Catholicism?

Finally, one of the last new scenes in the Director's Cut occurred as Rudy was carried off the field by his fellow Fighting Irish players. After Rudy won their game against Georgia, outside of Fortune, Frank, and Rudy's parents, Mary also watched Rudy be carried off, overjoyed with pride at what he had accomplished in the field.


All in all, these scenes help add some generous substance to Rudy and expose a clearer picture of Rudy's background, drive, and love life when he wasn't busy trying to prove his worth to the Fighting Irish. It helps make Rudy feel more like a biopic, not just a sports movie. With the Theatrical Cut, it seemed more determined to highlight Rudy's advancements in the University of Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish, possibly as a means of adhering to the general sports film formula. But the added scenes in the Director's Cut provided some engaging expositions of Rudy's personal life and his family legacy, not just his achievements on the football field.


As I've come to expect with Director's Cuts, they can rearrange certain scenes in the Theatrical Cut or add new ones to provide a different take on a story, and they can make or break the movie, or in this case, enhance or hinder it. In Rudy's case, while they did not create a substantial difference in its narrative, they did help add some extra meat to it, more so than I was acquainted with in the Theatrical Cut. And considering how much of a fan I am of Rudy before now, this was a tremendous accomplishment in my book.


Still going strong, still inspiring others, and still wowing sports fans the world over. What an achievement, David Anspaugh, and congratulations, Rudy Ruettiger!


My Rating

A strong A-

Additional Thoughts

In one of the new scenes of Rudy and Mary just sitting and talking – and this one was before he accidentally slipped to her about his enrollment at Holy Cross instead of Notre Dame – before Rudy introduced Mary to Jamie O'Hare, who was passing by, Rudy mentioned how exciting it must have been for the University of Notre Dame to finally accept girls into campus. This truly did happen the way he described it. I remember my father mentioning how, even as he went to school at Notre Dame, the campus used to be an all-male campus before it finally became coed in 1972. And this came into effect just as he was graduating. That's one of the other reasons I felt like the new scenes added so much substance to an already well-polished sports film like Rudy.

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