Fired Up Set Visit: Matthew Gross & Phil Needleman


Matthew Gross may be an incredibly successful producer who now has worked on high profile projects such as “Dirty Sexy Money” and last year’s smash hit musical Across the Universe, but back in the day Gross was quite the audacious teen who defied the rules and didn’t care what people thought when he and his good friend Phil Needleman blew off football camp and joined cheerleading instead to meet girls. Their hilarious story serves as the inspiration for Fired Up and was on set to talk to the guys about the good ole days. : Where did you come up with this idea to go to cheer camp?
Phil Needleman: Well, one of the cheerleaders from our team actually approached me and I have always had an inability to say “No” to beautiful women and so she very quickly talked me into the idea and being that I was for the most part inebriated throughout high school, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t such a bad idea. And for the first few weeks it was great! I mean we had a blast, went down there, surrounded by beautiful women in Santa Barbara for a few days, it was paradise, and then reality struck… We were cheerleaders.

CS: You weren’t worried at first to see how your friends and family were going to react?
Needleman: You know, in high school I didn’t really have a whole lot of concern what other people were thinking of how I presented myself and in very few filters.

CS: Matthew was saying you got into a lot of fights like on a daily basis because you guys were cheerleaders.
Needleman: This was after the fact. I mean, not very many people really knew what was happening at the time. We were advertising.

CS: You wanted all the girls to yourself.
Matthew Gross: What happened was we didn’t quite seem to think it through completely, we just heard, “Cheerleading Camp!” “A thousand girls, a thousand girls, a thousand girls.”
Needleman: We were the only straight guys there.
Gross: And so, we’re like, “We gotta go! We gotta go!” Then we realized we had to actually cheer.
Needleman: The stretching was great! The warm-up.
Gross: So, once we came back to school… I’ll never forget it. There was a Pep-Rally.
Needleman: My stomach hurts just thinking about it.
Gross: For some reason it was in the auditorium and not on the field, it was raining… whatever, but I remember the curtain being closed and being backstage…
Needleman: Freaking out!
Gross: “I can’t do this, I can’t do this… this is not me… I can’t do this… they’re going to make fun of us… what the hell are we doing?… can I hide in the back?” I just wanted to puke.
Needleman: And the coach really wanted us as the centerpiece. It had been like forty years since there were male cheerleaders at our school and it was like, “Oh! Look what I’ve got!” She was thrilled at the whole prospect.
Gross: They were writing articles about us in the school paper and the city newspaper. It was interesting because the girls were really excited to have us until we got back to them, because all the attention was sort of spot-lighted on us, so we’re taking the attention away from them and then on top of that we were getting in fights and the student body was really sort of not into it. And after two weeks we were like, “We tried. We tried to make it work. We saw this through, but you know literally I had a spot in the corner of the principal’s office because that’s where I was every day after school. Then you can imagine all the gay comments and I had to defend my manhood, so I kicked him swiftly in the nuts and ran.
Needleman: That’s how we do!
Gross: That’s how we roll! We’re like lightning! So it really wasn’t working out for any of us, but like I said earlier, we did break the glass ceiling. After we left, there were cheerleaders at the high school ever since 1981. Now today, as I said earlier you have to be athletic and a gymnast. Now you have to be like a gold medal gymnast to do what they do.
Needleman: Back then basically you just needed to be a guy.
Gross: And if you can raise your hands above your head and lift a girl, all the better. The cheerleading really sucked for us. It really did.
Needleman: Cheerleaders for sure, we were not.
Gross: We were wearing tube socks and dolphin shorts.
Needleman: Orange shorts.

CS: So what do you do now?
Needleman: I have an insurance agency here in LA and this is so far moved from what I do, but the reason I’m here in the suit today is because based upon this experience. We’ve gotten here into a three picture deal with Paramount.

CS: What?!
Gross: You’re such a bullsh*ter. He’s the fast talking guy and I’m the more shy guy.

CS: Do you see yourself in these characters?
Needleman: You know what; these guys are pretty funny guys.
Gross: They’re pretty close actually.
Needleman: The casting is has been pretty good. From what I have seen, Eric is a smart ass… We took some pictures the last time I was here and I was showing my wife and she said, “Were you a foot taller in high school?” So other than that. You know what? You look at him and back then I had big shaggy hair and was a little bit slighter…
Gross: More agile….a little more agile.
Needleman: I think Matt did a pretty good job with casting to be honestly.
Gross: Had trouble with the hot cheerleaders… lots of searching.

CS: Hot cheerleaders are almost non-existent.
Gross: We had to ship them in from Canada.

Fired Up opens in theaters on February 20.

<< Return to Set Visit