Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Grad Jumps Back In The Ring on Big Screen

The Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame does not include Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85). Nor does it list John Thompson Jr. But it does include Tom Quinn (C ’55).

While his name may not be hanging from the rafters at Verizon Center, it can be found in the credits for movies such as “The Pelican Brief,”Enemy of the State” and “Major League II.” This 1955 NCAA Eastern Intercollegiate Heavyweight Boxing Champ has for the past 10 years acted in over 100 films, commercials and plays.

In 2000, Quinn was for the first time able to combine his two passions, or what he calls his “two post-retirement hobbies,” boxing and acting, when he starred in the stage production of “The Great White Hope” as a boxing promoter. This past summer Quinn was again able to utilize his boxing background while acting, but this time it was in front of a camera in this year’s independent film “The Hammer.”

His journey began in May 2006 when Quinn received a call inviting him to send his reel to a team working on a boxing movie. It turns out the people on the other end of the phone were the producer, director and co-writer of 2001’s indie hit Kissing Jessica Stein, who had been recommended to Quinn by his nephew, a screenwriter in Los Angeles.

“Tom’s nephew is a neighbor of [the movie’s screenwriter] Kevin Hench, and Tom has had his bits and parts in a lot of television and film,” producer Eden Wurmfeld says.

“Kevin was the one who pitched Tom,” he continues. “We had him send his reel and we had been offering the part to a lot of different people. But as soon as we saw Tom’s reel, we were like, `Done, cast, if he wants this role it’s his; he’s our man.'”

Quinn was cast as boxing coach Ernie Bell, who trains the film’s main character Adam Carolla, known for FX’s “The Man Show.” Carolla, who came up with the idea for the comedy movie, started the project as a semi-autobiographical piece about a 39-year-old handyman whose life seems to be stalled 20 years after a once-promising amateur boxing career. But Carolla’s character gets back into the ring after the encouragement of Coach Bell (Quinn), which leads to a chase for Olympic gold.

The role was a huge step up for Quinn, who says that most of his acting in films is limited to short appearances that usually only keep him on the set for a day or two. The movie producers wanted Quinn because he was what they saw as the “real deal.”

Quinn criticizes other boxing movies and classics such as “Rocky” and Academy Award-winning “Million Dollar Baby” for their lack of authenticity in the ring. Quinn prides himself on being able to provide a sense of realness to the film.

“They wanted someone with authenticity, someone who knows his way around the ring,” he says. “I know what a guy says in the corner. I’ve been there. There are some things in boxing movies that make me sick. You can tell when someone has the right background.”

The filmmakers agree that Quinn’s background made him ideal for the role.

“We were thrilled that he had boxing experience,” Wurmfeld says. “He knew the language and knew that world. I don’t think it [the boxing background] was a requirement, but it was of tremendous value. It made Tom perfect. . He did a great job.”

In fact, Quinn was known on the set as “one-take Tom,” since he always knew his lines and had thoroughly read and practiced them before arriving at the set each day.

“The night before I would study my lines and always come in prepared,” Quinn says. “Because of my theatrical background, I was used to taking the script home, studying them and analyzing them as if it were a play. It was different – even Carolla would come in and say `What are we doing today?'”

Quinn says the highlight of this movie experience was the comedic solo speech he gives to 30 boxers standing around the ring, a segment he has a copy of at his home and has admittedly watched many times, even acting out the speech during the interview.

“I look at the 30 boxers and I blow a whistle,” Quinn says. “Then I say, `Who here knows how many gold medals the United States boxing team has won in the last two Olympics combined? One. That’s right. Uno. Cuba has won nine. Kazakhstan has won three. I don’t even know where that is. France has won as many gold medals as the United States in the last two Olympics. France, for Christ’s sake! Today we’re going to find out if anyone here might have what it takes to change that in 2008. Let’s get started.'”

Quinn had another noteworthy experience while working on the set. He was able to attend a professional boxing match in Las Vegas as a guest of HBO where he was able to meet Evander Holyfield, Oscar de la Hoya and Cheryl Hines of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. He also met interesting people on the set, including several professional boxers that had small roles in the movie.

Working with Carolla, however, was an experience in itself.

“He’s [Carolla] is a surprisingly good actor,” Quinn says. “It’s very much his show. He wrote it, is producing it, starring in it. . He has an extraordinary ego but that’s what makes him what he is. He is good.”

The movie finished filming this summer and is currently in post-production. The plan is to submit it to the Sundance Film Festival in January and hope that a distributor will pick it up and release it in spring or summer.

“Our dream is that we get in [to Sundance],” Wurmfeld says. “But it’s a very long shot. If it doesn’t get accepted we will consider other film festivals and also do some industry screenings to try to sell it.”

Regardless of the movie’s success, Quinn says the experience was “a lot of fun” and would do it again “in a heartbeat.” He admits that his acting gigs are few and far between since he’s getting old, and he jokes that at 72, he doesn’t really get “offers for boyish roles anymore.”

But until his next big break, Quinn plans to continue his pursue his original passion, boxing, which started during his years at Georgetown, embodied by his worn and cracked boxing gloves encased in the lobby of McDonough Gymnasium that Quinn wore during his championship match. That passion is now channeled into Quinn’s bi-weekly boxing classes at Yates, which are open to anyone, as part of his effort to revive Georgetown’s old boxing tradition.

“My real goal, my dream, is to organize the undergrads and get them to organize a boxing club here,” Quinn says. “It would be an ideal final gift, to coach a team here.”

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