PEEWEES’ PLAYHOUSE : New Quarterback Takes ‘Little Giants’ Toward Goal

How’s this for a game plan? Let director Duwayne Dunham coach Warner Bros.’ peewee football movie, “Little Giants,” until the last 3 1/2 weeks of shooting and then bring aboard another director to drive the movie home.

It’s very rare that a director is ever pulled off a picture this late in the game. But for the movie, which was behind schedule, to be finished for its Oct. 14 release, the move was a necessary one, say sources involved with the film.

Officials from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and sources close to Dunham and director Brian Levant, brought in from his vacation as the relief director, confirm the scenario. Levant directed the $100-million-plus summer blockbuster “The Flintstones.”

“Little Giants,” which stars Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill, is about two competing football teams and the brothers--one’s a sports buff and the other is far from being a winner--who end up coaching them. Moranis’ character pulls the short straw, and--big surprise--gets stuck with the loser team.


Amblin spokesman Marvin Levy said the company felt Levant, an avowed football buff, was just the guy to direct the remaining big-game sequences of the movie. Not only did he direct Universal’s 1992 family movie “Beethoven,” but he’s “done a lot of TV and worked with a lot of kids,” Levy says.

So Dunham, an editing pro who had worked for director David Lynch and George Lucas for 10 years and who also had directed “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey,” was thrown into the editing room to rush the movie through post-production while Levant finished the shooting. Sources say that Dunham was bumped because the $25-million movie was 10 days over its budgeted shooting time and Warner Bros. was committed to releasing the picture at the height of football season. Even more critical, sources say, the comedy wasn’t funny enough.

But Amblin’s Levy, Dunham’s agent (John Burnham of William Morris) and Levant’s agent (Peter Benedek of United Talent Agency) insist that the film is funny and that Levant’s presence has nothing to do with Dunham’s departure. In fact, they say, Dunham is expected to get sole director credit.

“Duwayne is not an action director and it was his choice to move into post-production on this film so it could be released in time,” says Burnham. “It was with his consent that Brian was brought aboard to handle (back-up directing).”

Levy chimes in, “Besides, if the film wasn’t funny it would take a lot more than three weeks to fix it.”

Benedict declined to comment further; the two directors could not be reached.