Learn the incredible-but-true story of how The Nice Guys’ producer Joel Silver invented Ultimate Frisbee
Hollywood can be a pretty weird place, as our recent visit to the set of The Nice Guys can attest. The ’70s noir comedy caper, which has been pulling in rave reviews, grew out of the creative clash of four very different talents: Writer and director Shane Black, stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and producer Joel Silver. Silver, of course, has delivered a legendary filmography as a Hollywood producer with more than 100 films and hits spanning from Predator to Die Hard to The Matrix. And, of course, Joel Silver is also well known as the man who gave the world Ultimate Frisbee.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s true,” said Silver when asked on set about his unlikely connection to Ultimate Frisbee. “I mean, I like to say we developed it.”
There, between setups on The Nice Guys‘ final day of shooting, Joel Silver sat with a small group of journalists who, against a chilly Griffith Park midnight, waited with bated breath as Silver revealed the true story of how Ultimate Frisbee came to be.
“I went one year to Mount Hermon,” Silver recalled. “It was a prep school. One summer, there were a couple guys there from Amherst and Amherst was the location of a place called [The Frisbie Pie Company]. They made these metal pie tins, which is what they first started throwing around there in Massachusetts. That didn’t connect with California, where they had the Pluto Platter or whatever… There was kind of a game that they played at Amherst since the ‘50s that had elements of a kind of run and catch game, which I was taught there that summer. Then I brought it back to my high school.”
It was at New Jersey’s Columbia High School that Joel Silver helped turn what would become Ultimate Frisbee into a true sensation.
“As a joke one day — because it was a kind of counter culture time — I had raised my hand in my student council and I say, “I’d like to move that we have a committee to investigate the possibility of bringing frisbee into the high school curriculum,'” he laughed. “Which was a f–king joke and it passed! They said, “Okay, we approve you. Done. You have a committee.” I mean, it was a joke. I didn’t expect to have a committee to investigate playing frisbee, so we kind of started playing this game and they just had built that parking lot, which is down the street. They decided to light it at night, because they didn’t want a dark, empty parking lot there. They lit it all night, so we had a place to go and we’d come at the end of our evening and we’d all collect there and play this kind of game that we started playing.”
It was long before Ultimate Frisbee was finally given a name.
“It was popular,” Silver continued. “People would come and hang out and play this game. We’d play in the winter. It was fun and, by the end of that school year, we played the student council… To show what the committee did, I decided to put the rules on paper and so we wrote up the rules. There was a game then they used to play that Wham-O had put out called ‘Guts Frisbee.’ It was the dumbest games in the world. You stand there across from each other and throw the frisbee as hard as you can at the other team. It’s called ‘Guts Frisbee.’ Dumbest game. So when my friend who wrote the rules wrote it, he called it ‘Speed Frisbee’. I said, “You can’t call it ‘Speed Frisbee’! That’s as dumb as ‘Guts Frisbee’! Let’s call it ‘Ultimate Frisbee.’ ‘The Ultimate Frisbee,’ that’s what we’ll call it!” So we typed it up, put it in, submitted it, and that was the game.”
Although it may not be the credit he’s best known for these days, Silver still looks back on his Ultimate Frisbee with a wry smile.
“At one point, I was sitting with a bunch of my friends and we were playing and I said to this guy, ‘You know, someday they’re going to be playing this game all over the world and he said ‘Yeah, sure Joel. They’ll be playing this game all over the world. You got it.'”
Catch The Nice Guys in theaters this Friday, May 20.