In honor of legendary actor James Caan who died July 6 at age 82, N2Entertainment.net is re-running part of its Old School Video Pick review of "Brian's Song" which Caan starred in as Chicago Bears football great Brian Piccolo.
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs, Editor-In-Chief
"Brian's Song" tells the remarkable story of the friendship between Piccolo and Gayle Sayers (played by Billy Dee Williams). Caan and Williams are sensational in this drama.
Like Caan, "Brian's Song" is a beloved classic. It is one of many outstanding movies Caan made throughout his illustrious career. Others include: “The Godfather,” “Misery,” “Elf,” “Countdown,” “The Rain People,” “Blood Ties,” “The Gambler, “Freebie and the Bean,” and “Mickey Blue Eyes.”
I’ve been sold on "Brian's Song" since the first day I saw it. It is hands down my favorite football movie of all time. I can't count how many times I've seen it, but I never get tired watching it. You can usually catch “Brian’s Song” on TV during the fall. True football, movie fanatics already have it in their collection.
"Brian's Song" is loosely based on Gale Sayers' autobiography, "I am Third" which chronicles his longstanding rivalry and friendship with his teammate, Brian Piccolo who died June 16, 1970, from cancer. Piccolo was just 26 years old.
The true to life film originally aired in 1971 as a "movie of the week" on ABC television and garnered huge ratings. It won five Emmys, including "Best Dramatic Program.”
"Brian's Song," was written by Emmy Award winning screenwriter William Blinn, ("Fame," "Roots" and "Purple Rain"). It was later released in theaters. A remake of "Brian's Song" aired on ABC's "The Wonderful World of Disney in 2001. It starred Mekhi Phifer as Sayers and Sean Maher as Piccolo. Though good, it paled in comparison to the original.
Rumor has it that Nicholas Sparks (“Safe Haven” and “The Notebook”) and his production company are considering making another movie about Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo. It will have to be some kind of special to top “Brian’s Song.”
In the original “Brian’s Song,” Sayers (Williams) plays the reserved and talented running back that arrives at the Bears training camp and tries out for the same position as the brash and cocky Piccolo (Caan). Although both players make the team, Sayers starts, and Piccolo has to play second string to him. Despite the tension this creates, over time the two men forge a remarkable friendship. It gets truly tested when a knee injury sidelines Sayers and Piccolo discovers he's dying.
While there are many great scenes in "Brian's Song," Williams' awards tribute speech honoring Piccolo is one of the most gut-wrenching and memorable. It gets me every single time.
Not only do Williams and Caan give outstanding performances, but the movie also features an impressive supporting cast that includes Jack Warden who plays owner/coach George "Papa Bear" Halas, the late Bernie Casey and even some of the actual Chicago Bears football players like Jack Concannon, Ed O' Bradovich, Dick Butkus and Abe Gibron.
You will likely get into plenty of heated arguments from football fanatics about what's the greatest football movie of all time, but few can argue that "Brian's Song" ranks at the top, and James Caan and Billy Dee Williams' touching performances are a big reason why.