Duluth to get a dose of Clooney star power

  • Updated: March 24, 2008 - 9:36 AM

Clooney and Renée Zellweger co-star in a movie based on the story of the legendary Duluth Eskimos football team. The stars will appear at a news conference at 11 a.m. today.

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Renee Zellweger and George Clooney in a scene from "Leatherheads." They are coming to Duluth to publicize the Minnesota-set 1920s football comedy.

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George Clooney and Renée Zellweger will visit Duluth this morning to publicize their Minnesota-set 1920s football comedy "Leatherheads."

 The best chance to see the stars will be 1 p.m., when Clooney and Zellweger will greet fans at the main entrance to the Duluth Depot. It's the first leg of a whistlestop tour including Maysville, Ky., hometown of Clooney's father and aunt, Rosemary Clooney; and Salisbury, N.C., and Greenville, S.C., where the film was shot. The two stars will hold a news conference at 11 a.m.

Clooney, who recently graced the cover of Time magazine as "The Last Movie Star," has a sizable personal stake in the film, which opens April 4. He plays the lead, directed and co-wrote the screenplay.

Clooney plays an aging player-coach who aims to revitalize his team, the Duluth Bulldogs, by recruiting a celebrated young Princeton player/war hero (John Krasinski of TV's "The Office"). Complications ensue when a female reporter (Zellweger), working on an exposé about the college gridiron star, finds herself embroiled in a romantic triangle with the men.

Although the film was shot in the Carolinas, it bristles with references to northern Minnesota. The Bulldogs are modeled on the 1920s Duluth Eskimos, a short-lived pro franchise once called "the greatest football team ever put together" by Chicago Bears owner/coach George Halas.

The film also continues the long tradition of poking fun at Duluth. In one exchange, Zellweger's character tells Clooney's, "You think you're the slickest operator in Duluth. But being the slickest operator in Duluth is like being the world's tallest midget, if you ask me."

"I have a hard time believing Hollywood's version is any more exciting or wild than the real-life tale," said Duluth News Tribune deputy editorial page editor Chuck Frederick, who wrote a history of the Eskimos called "Leatherheads of the North."

COLIN COVERT

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