Even if you’re not into sports or ice hockey, there’s a good chance you’ve seen and enjoyed the 1977 movie Slap Shot. Despite starring Hollywood icon Paul Newman, at the time, the movie only managed to achieve modest success at the box office.
Slap Shot 1977 – Paul Newman pic.twitter.com/MRm3MzsI4Z
— All Movies (@AllMovie_) May 3, 2020
1977 was also the year that Star Wars and Close Encounters became smash hits,, as sci-fi movies enjoyed a surge in popularity. The only other movies to surpass the $100 million mark were Smokey and the Bandit, along with Saturday Night Fever.
By comparison, Slap Shot was only the 21st highest-grossing movie of 1977. Nevertheless, it has gone on to become a cult classic that still enjoys great popularity today. Likewise, there’s also plenty of things you might not know about the movie.
Fiction mixing with reality
The script for Slap Shot was written by Nancy Dowd, who based her story mostly around the minor league hockey experiences of her brother, Ned Dowd, who played for the Johnstown Jets minor league team. They formed the basis of the fictional Charlestown Chiefs in the movie.
The real-life Johnstown Jets were also on the verge of folding, as was the North American Hockey League in which the team played. This was reflected by the Charlestown Chiefs in the movie, who focused on a violent way of playing hockey to boost their crowds. Fighting in games was actually a big attraction for crowds in the real 1970’s minor leagues.
The Hanson Brothers
This unforgettable trio of characters provide some of the most amusing and violent moments in Slap Shot. What’s more, the three brothers (Jack, Steve, Jeff) were actually based on the real-life Carlson Brothers, who actually played minor league hockey with the Johnstown Jets at the time.
— The Hanson Brothers (@Hanson_Brothers) May 2, 2020
Steve and Jeff Carlson played their Hanson namesakes in the movie. Although he was originally cast to do the same, Jack Carlson had to pull out of shooting after being called up to the Edmonton Oilers, when they made the professional World Hockey Association playoffs. His role in the movie was played by David Hanson, another real-life Johnstown Jets player.
Jack Carlson went on to enjoy a successful professional career in the National Hockey League. One of his final teams was the St. Louis Blues in the early 1980s. These days, they are habitually amongst the leading NHL betting odds and tips to win the Stanley Cup, having lifted the famous trophy as recently as 2019.
Although there were some eyebrows raised that Paul Newman would choose to appear in such a bawdy sports comedy, according to The Newman Chronicles published by Vanity Fair in 2008, the actor himself revealed that Slap Shot was one of his favorite movies. He also acknowledged that he’d never swore more in any other movie and that the habit of swearing stuck long afterwards.
SLAP SHOT ('77) has everything: it's funny, filthy, dark, stars a VERY 70's Paul Newman, and was written by a woman. pic.twitter.com/JfDz5IQX24
— Allie Goertz (@AllieGoertz) August 12, 2016
While it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Paul Newman playing the lead as Reggie Dunlop, the player-coach of the Chiefs, there’s another famous actor who really wanted that role. That actor is none other than Al Pacino, who still regrets not getting the chance to feature in Slap Shot. “Can he skate?” was the response from director George Roy Hill, which Pacino regarded as a rejection for the role when he’d made his interest known.