If Peter Berg has his way, by Sunday night the New York Giants will be Super Bowl champions and there will be a lot more enthusiasm for Battleship, thanks to a 60-second spot that Berg and Universal will unleash during the first quarter. The first teaser got a “WTF” reaction as it introduced an alien component to a nautical theme culled from the venerable board game. Berg tells me that the the new long spot will introduce “more effects, more story and a bit more humor. Universal has spent generously for this, to show our aim to deliver major summer entertainment. The scope of the film will be apparent in the Super Bowl spot.” Berg’s influence is all over the commercial, including his convincing Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello to come up with the music for a spot which the studio won’t debut until game time.
Berg, who’ll be at the game, actually helmed two other TV spots that will be shown during the big game: He directed one for the returning NBC show The Voice, and another for the NFL which shows what the league is doing to improve awareness in trying to prevent head and neck injuries suffered on the field. Berg, who turned Friday Night Lights into both a movie and long-running TV series, said the mission is “to find a way to help kids learn to tackle with their heads up. It is becoming a mandatory program in youth football, and the NFL has gone for it. The commercial cracks the evolution of safety; it starts with Jim Thorpe running back a kickoff in 1906, and features eight runners from Gale Sayers to Deion Sanders and Devin Hester, to old-school players from my dad’s era, melded into one kickoff return with Ray Lewis narrating. You don’t see catastrophic spinal cord injuries in rugby, but these helmets are like putting warheads on players and it has gotten out of hand. You see young kids paralyzed and 40-year old former gridiron heroes living in cars with dementia because of the severe concussions they suffered.”
As for Battleship and the test that Berg’s Friday Night Lights discovery Taylor Kitsch faces this year leading that film, John Carter and Savages, Berg thinks that like Kitsch’s Friday Night Lights character Tim Riggins, he’ll find a way to score. “He’s for real, a young Bruce Willis, a good looking athletic guy who is smart, sarcastic, self deprecating, and willing to fuck things up five times and get it right on the sixth,” Berg said. “He has the ability to move from humor to heroic behavior. The first person who saw Battleship footage was Oliver Stone, because he was thinking of casting Taylor in Savages. Now, if I had to make a list of 10 guys who’d see this film first, I wouldn’t imagine Oliver being on it. He watched half an hour, and left with a quiet smile. The next day he cast Taylor in Savages.” Berg plans for Kitsch to play one of the four roles in Lone Survivor, an adaptation of the book by Marcus Luttrell that Berg will make his next film at Universal. The film tells the harrowing story of how he and his Navy SEAL team members fought to stay alive after being ambushed in Afghanistan in 2005 by Taliban forces during a covert mission in the Hindu Kush mountain region, where the team went to kill a terrorist leader.
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