In honor of the Sochi Games, PopWatch is taking a look back at a few of our favorite Winter Olympics-themed movies. First up: The Cutting Edge, the classic 1992 “hockey player meets figure skater” romantic comedy. We talked to star D.B. Sweeney – who played cocky ex-hockey star Doug Dorsey, opposite Moira Kelly’s snooty ice queen Kate Moseley – about the making of the film, the impossible physics of its climactic bounce-spin-throw (the “Pamchenko”), and its truly wretched sequels. Toe pick!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all: Do you resent people still asking you about The Cutting Edge?
D.B. SWEENEY: No, it’s great. You hope people watch the movies over and over again, and this has become one of those movies for people. So it’s a great compliment to Tony Gilroy’s script, and Moira Kelly’s great performance, and what we all tried to do.
Did you and Moira have chemistry right away?
Well, I don’t know about that. What happened [was], I didn’t know how to ice skate, and neither did she. They sent us to Sky Rink in New York City, which was on the 10th floor of a building on, like, 9th Avenue and 50th Street. MGM rented out a space there for us to go skate. For three months, we skated almost every day together, and I would stay and play hockey. It let us get to know each other in a different way than a normal rehearsal process, and it was very similar to what the characters go through in the movie. I think it was just a very natural and organic way to build a history for the characters.
So you couldn’t ice skate when you first read the script. Did that ever give you pause?
You know, I had done Eight Men Out – I played baseball my whole life, in college and beyond and stuff, and I didn’t hit left-handed. And I learned to hit left-handed – that was extremely difficult for a baseball player to believably do that. So I guess I felt like I could learn it as well as I could, and then they would just have to use stunt doubles and trick photography and whatever else. I didn’t really worry about it very much until the first week of filming – Moira had gotten so good at it, and she starting to land jumps. So she landed funny on a jump, and she broke her leg. And that was the first time I really got nervous – I was hoping they could film her, and I could hide in the background. But now, a lot of it was going to be me with her stunt double [Sharon Carz]. And so I ended up doing a lot more skating than I had planned, and certainly [more] than the producers had planned. If you skate with an Olympic level skater, they make you so much better because you’re skating behind them, and you’re trying to imitate their stride and their stance. It’s like having the world’s greatest training wheels. So Sharon was able to make me look a lot better than I would have looked skating by myself.
Did she have a cast? How did that work?
Yeah, she had a cast on her foot – I want to say it was her right foot. And they did a brilliant job of hiding it all through the movie with selective photography and trick shots. To this day, the most embarrassing scene for me is where she and I go out to have some drinks and we’re dancing. She’s sitting on a camera dolly with her foot in a cast, and she’s just dancing with her upper body, and I’m dancing with everything that God gave me. And she’s a better dancer with no legs than I am.
There’s that really funny scene where Doug goes back to Minnesota and has to admit to everyone he knows that he’s been figure skating. Did you ever have to come out to your friends as a figure skater?
Well, I had a lot of friends in hockey, and before the movie came out, I told them, “It’s really great, I’m doing this hockey movie.” One of them, Chris Chelios, he’s in the movie just for a second in the Olympic scene. And then almost every single one of them, after they saw it, they said, “You still haven’t done a hockey movie. That’s a figure skating movie.” So it’s kind of similar to the character. But nah, I’m real proud of the movie, and I’ve become a big fan of figure skating over the years. I got to be good friends with Scott Hamilton. It’s a great sport. It’s a very unusual, funny sport, with the judging and everything. I think that’s what the movie mines very successfully: What kind of a sport is there where they judge your outfits? It’s very athletic; it’s more athletic now than when we made the movie. But even so, it’s a little bit weird that it’s so subjective. You know who won the football game by the score, but not in skating.
What did you think the first time you saw your matador costume?
I thought it was really funny. I thought it was just right. The costume designer was William Ivey Long, who’s one of the all-time great Broadway designers – I don’t think he’s done any other movies since then. [Long has done costumes for a few more movies, though only a handful.] I don’t think he really liked the experience as much. I think in the movie business, a producer can come over and sort of have an equal opinion to a guy who’s world-renowned. I don’t think he really liked that energy of the process as much as he might’ve.
I have to ask – do you have any idea of what a Pamchenko would actually look like, if it were happening in real life?
You know, I started having this conversation with Tony Gilroy, the writer. The way it’s designed, I throw her, and then I stand still, and I catch her. And you can only do that if she’s Supergirl and she’s going to fly back to me. So it doesn’t make any sense at all. So I thought, you know what? I’m not going to really think about it too much. It is what it is. And when I was spinning her around, it wasn’t actually Moira – it was a mannequin. That worked out pretty well, except the wig kept flying off the mannequin. So you start thinking about things like “how can I help the wig stay on the mannequin?” instead of worrying about the impossibility of the trick.
Were you as constantly banged up as Doug is in the movie?
Yeah, that was actually my contribution – the ice bags on the hips. Because if you’re playing hockey, you have the hockey pads on; you land on your butt or your hips, you’re okay. You can get hurt other ways, obviously. But with figure skating, when you fall, you tend to land on those hip bones, and once you have a bruise there, you get bruises on bruises. So that was my suggestion. They wanted to show how banged up he was, and I said, “Here’s where you put the ice bags.” We were both fairly fit starting the movie, and then Moira’s training got curtailed by getting hurt. Since we were in good shape you’re able to recover better. But I spent a lot of time on the ice. Some of those days where we were filming, you’d be on skates for 10 hours, with a short break. My friend Chris Chelios came in to be one of the German players in the Olympics, and he was there on skates for five hours – we went to lunch, and he left. He was like, “I’m never on skates this long in my life.”
Did Roy Dotrice ever speak in his Russian accent when you weren’t filming?
You know what, he would usually slip right back into his wonderful British sound. That guy has the greatest stories ever. I loved hanging out with Roy and Kate, his wife. We became very good friends, stayed in touch after the movie was over. He’s from such a showbiz lineage. He lied about his age and joined the Royal Air Force, and was a prisoner of war, and met his wife when he was released as a POW – she was a nurse in the military hospital. They’ve been married at this point I guess 70 years. Just a great, great character, a total trooper.
What was your favorite scene to shoot? When did you have the most fun?
Well, the hockey scenes were really fun. I really enjoyed that part. I think my favorite scene to shoot was the scene with Moira and I where we’re just about to go on, and I get sick to my stomach. I just thought it was such a funny setup and such a well-written script, and I thought Moira was just so good in that scene. All the scenes I had with Moira were fun. I’ve been really lucky with actors I’ve worked with in my career, but really, Moira was the best.
Were you two close off set?
We were very friendly, but a lot of times, you work a 12 hour day, you basically go home and check your messages and go to sleep. But she did me the great honor of playing a part in Two Tickets to Paradise, which I directed in 2007. It was really great of her to do that, because obviously we hadn’t made a movie together since Cutting Edge. We’ve stayed friends through the years, and I have a lot of admiration for her.
You guys should go out and take tequila shots sometime.
[laughs] Yeah! If I go take tequila shots, I gotta bring my own handcuffs.
So when’s the last time you watched the movie?
I watched it with my daughter – my daughter’s 9, and we watched it together about three years ago. I think I’ve been in about 75 movies, and it’s one of the only ones I’ve let her see. And she loved it. It didn’t feel like some kind of weird old movie or something; it feels very contemporary. I think the movie gets better and better, in comparison to the movies that come out each year. Romantic comedies are particularly hard to make. And Tony Gilroy is such a great writer, and this was his first script; [director] Paul Michael Glaser did a great job. Our camera operator was Jon Cassar, who’s now become a big director – he’s directing the new 24 limited series. Terry O’Quinn went on to become a big TV star. It was a big launching pad for a lot of people.
Why did you and Moira decide not to do the sequel?
Because the script was terrible and they offered us no money. It was really simple. If the script had been decent, and they had offered us any money – she and I made a deal that we wouldn’t do it without the other one. It was easy to stick to, because the money was so insultingly low and the script was so bad. I just thought it was unfortunate that they’d do that. But I heard they’re talking about remaking Casablanca in Hollywood right now, so – not that Cutting Edge is anything like Casablanca. But there are some movies that if they work, you should just leave them alone.
Although it seems like the sequels have been really successful – they released three in four years.
Yeah, they keep making money. It’s one of those blue chip titles. But if they ever decide they want to make a real sequel, with a real script, like maybe get Tony Gilroy involved, then Moira and I will come back.
Do people still yell “toe pick!” at you?
Yeah. If I go to a baseball game, I hear “Shoeless Joe,” but otherwise, I hear “toe pick” five times a day. No matter how many more movies I make, that’ll be on my gravestone. But it’s a movie that makes everybody happy, and it doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. And I think it does what movies are supposed to do. I’d love to be in another movie like that.