Rawson Marshall Thurber's Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is an unconventional sports movie in many ways, and one of the specific ways is how the actors really participated in the action. Films about baseball don't have performers hitting Major League-level fastballs, and football tackles are never as rough as they look, but the Vince Vaughn comedy very much went the extra mile as far as pelting members of the ensemble cast with rubber sports balls.
One of the most memorable moments in the movie in this department is the sequence when the team from Average Joe's Gym has their first training session with Rip Torn's Patches O'Houlihan. Obviously the wrenches that are thrown around in the scene are fake, but the pitch machine used to launch balls was very, very real, and Vince Vaughn recently recounted how the experience was actually pretty scary.
With his new film Freaky now in theaters, Vaughn sat down with GQ for a career retrospective, and while discussing Dodgeball one of the memories he recalled was about that pitch machine. Apparently the director wanted to make the experience as authentic as possible, but that had the effect of putting the star ill at ease. Said Vaughn,
For some reason they had to crank this thing up to the highest speed, but in the movie you’re not going to really read that. So they put me in front of it. They’re like, ‘We’re gonna hit you a few times, then you’re gonna catch it.’ The first thing came, and it was so powerful. I go, ‘Guys, this is crazy. Like no one’s going to be able to tell that the thing’s going 80 mph or 60 miles and hour or 40. You gotta tone this thing down.’ Like, 'This is dangerous.'
Unfortunately, the timing of Vince Vaughn's complaint wasn't exactly stellar. While he was personally shocked to discover how fast dodgeballs were being launched through the machine, he wasn't actually the first member of the cast to stand in front of it. Vaughn continued,
Only to come to find out that the great Justin Long had already been there for an hour getting hit by this machine at full speed multiple times. So he definitely had a strong commitment to going through the pain of the experience.
For what it's worth, while the audience may not be able to pick up the specific speed of the ball as its flying through the air, that extra 30 or 40mph certainly has an impact on the actors' reaction to being hit, and it results in some fantastic physical comedy (Justin Long's sacrifice of his body was particularly worth it, as it is hilarious to watch him just get absolutely crushed by red rubber)
Those of you who are now curious how this knowledge makes the scene play differently are in luck. If you don't already have the movie on Blu-ray or DVD, it's available to rent or buy from digital retailers, and is currently streaming on Cinemax (which you can access directly with an account or cable subscription, or through Hulu or Amazon).