Just imagine how different things could’ve been. Al Pacino was fresh off his success with The Godfather when he was looking for a new role. He heard about this movie about a hockey team called Charlestown Chiefs, and he showed interest in the role as the coach/GM for the team.
When director George Ray Hill found out Pacino couldn’t skate, the role instead went to Paul Newman, and I think we can all say that we’re pretty grateful for that today.
Not because Al Pacino is a bad actor in any way, but it’s just impossible to imagine anyone other than Paul Newman leading the Charlestown Chiefs. Because boy, oh boy, how well he played that role.
Slap shot premiered in 1977, and it’s still considered one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Although the movie wasn’t an immediate blockbuster success – it actually got slammed by critics at Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal – it grew on hockey fans, and it’s an absolute cult classic.
Paul Newman was the movie’s big star, but the Hanson Brothers won the viewers’ hearts. They had a unique look, with glasses and long hair, and were completely crazy on the ice and in the locker room. They were goons like we have never seen, and they were also quite the personalities in real life. The Hanson Brothers were played by David Hanson (Jack), Steve Carlson (Steve), and Jeff Carlson (Jeff).
To nobody’s surprise, Dave, Jeff, and Steve were quite the prankers.
Newman was the movie’s big star, so of course, he had to have a large house rented near Johnstown while filming. He also had a motel room where the rest of the cast stayed, and in that room was a built-in one-person sauna. Newman loved his sauna, and that’s when Dave and the boys got a great idea.
”They grabbed bags and bags of popcorn from the rink after a day on the set and emptied them into Newman’s little sauna, filling it to the top,” the according to the blog Nitzy’s Hockey Den, who heard this story from Newman himself, while driving him to the 50th Anniversary Reunion of the World Hockey Association in Whistler, BC.
The boys waited for a response from Newman, but he, weirdly enough, never said anything about it.
”The next day and a few after, there was no reaction from Newman even though they all knew he had stayed at the motel post “popcorn-ing” of his sauna. It turned out they would have to wait a few more days for his reaction.”
Well, Newman hadn’t just ignored the prank. He was just waiting for the perfect moment to hit back. And the perfect opportunity arrived when the boys were filming the scene where the team meets up with the Chiefs’ booster bus at a rod-side stop.
”He suggested they all strip down and run off the bus buck-naked as a joke. Everyone having more than a few beers in them at that point agreed happily.”
It was just one problem. Newman had no intention of dropping his clothes, and the revenge was indeed served.
”As the team ran out naked, hooting and hollering and shocking everyone, Dave noticed Newman was not amongst them. He looked up to see the blue-eyed movie star fully clothed, hanging out a bus window. Newman yelled to Dave and the Carlsons, “payback’s a bitch boys!””
It wasn’t just a great prank and a great payback. As it turned out, hundreds of people were at the location, as they had heard that Paul Newman would be there. Of course, local authorities weren’t happy with people actually being naked there, but luckily, nobody got arrested for public indecency.