Varsity Blues 15 Years Later: James Van Der Beek “Couldn’t Throw” + Other Things You Didn’t Know

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It’s hard to believe that 15 years ago today, Varsity Blues, a teen high school drama starring James Van Der Beek debuted in theaters. The first of a string of a 1999 MTV Films releases, the movie told the story of a small football town in Texas where losing wasn’t an option. Van Der Beek portrayed Jonathan Moxon, the intelligent yet rebellious second-string quarterback who had to step up when Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) was injured. His team included Billy Bob (Ron Lester), the sensitive offensive guard, Charlie Tweeder (Scott Caan), the rightfully-cocky wide receiver and Wendell Brown (Eliel Swinton), the talented running back. As we look back on the life we always wanted, Lester shares things you may have not known about the film, such as who was up for the Van Der Beek’s role.

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1) Chris Klein was up for the main role, Jonathan “Mox” Moxon:

“We had a screen test with eight different Moxons — Chris Klein, James Van Der Beek, a bunch of other people. The funny thing was, I was the only Billy Bob … Going through the process [of eight different screen tests] and having [director Brian Robbins] come up to me and going, ‘so who do you think is the best one that’s going to be Mox?’ I told him Van Der Beek …  I remember that [Klein] was so much taller than me. It sucked. I’m like six foot and this guy’s towering me. I’m going, ‘That’s not fair. No, no.’ ”

2) Varsity Blues was originally intended to be Friday Night Lights:

Varsity Blues is pretty much Friday Night Lights. The only thing is MTV couldn’t get the rights to it.”

3) Van Der Beek couldn’t throw a football, or could he?:

“Every time you see a straight ball thrown from Van Der Beek, it was the UT quarterback. I promise you. Van Der Beek couldn’t throw a ball … He played a role. He worked his heart off. He did a great job. But at the end of the day Paul was a more athletic-type person than Van Der Beek was.”

Editor’s Note: If you don’t want to take  Lester’s word for it, you can judge Van Der Beek’s throwing ability based on this movie clip, and this one, and this appearance at the Madden Pigskin Pro Am last year.