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As “Air Force One” President, Harrison Ford Rooted For Michigan Against Notre Dame

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SPOILER ALERT: Steward Joey was a Michigan Wolverines fan as well.

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The president of the United States would have rather been watching his beloved Michigan Wolverines play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in football than taking a victory lap for intervening in the genocide of 200,000 Kazakhstanis.

If you don’t recall this tidbit from the James Marshall presidency, it’s likely because you’ve never seen the 1997 action-packed thriller, “Air Force One.”

The gridiron rivals are featured during the film’s opening 15 minutes, before the plane is hijacked by loyalists of the Kazakhstani warlord that Marshall has recently helped capture.

While the film’s original script called for the president to be a Duke basketball fan, Marshall’s allegiance was changed sometime during the transition from pen to celluloid.

Marshall’s top priority upon boarding his plane home is asking, “Lewis, you tape the game?”

Lewis — played by actor Dan Shor and billed as “Notre Dame aide” — replies, “Oh, it was a real squeaker, sir.”

Columbia Pictures

(I e-mailed Shor to ask him about his credit. He replied: “My character in Air Force One was called Notre Dame aide because he was a proud graduate of Notre Dame. In the film, the president and I had a friendly football rivalry. It is obvious that, yes, Notre Dame has a greater football history than Michigan and Harrison Ford, though stunningly cool in real life, played a very alpha president who, unfortunately, was rooting for an inferior team.” Awesome response.)

In this pre-social media age, this withholding-information-from-the-president gag continues as Marshall’s chief of staff asks him, “Hear about Notre Dame, Jim?”

Columbia Pictures

The president orders the replay of the game to be turned on in his cabin.

But, before that can happen, the president runs into Steward Joey (Fenton Lawless).

“14-13, Michigan! All right, Mr. President,” the steward says. Marshall presents a wry smile, which is the only hint viewers have as to the president’s ultimate football allegiance. (It’s mentioned nowhere else in the film.)

Steward Joey (Fenton Lawless) and President Jim Marshall (Harrison Ford) in “Air Force One”
Columbia Pictures

So was Steward Joey a sycophant, buttering up his boss with good news? Or was he an asshole Michigan fan, eager to rib the Irish-loving president by simultaneously gloating and spoiling Marshall’s delayed watch?

I couldn’t say for certain, so I went straight to the source — Fenton Lawless, the actor who delivered the news of Michigan’s win:

What I’m saying is: Don’t let President Marshall’s heroic effort to save his wife, daughter and staff from acts of high-altitude terrorism distract you from his Wolverine fandom.

LET’S GO TO THE TAPE

“Air Force One” features four brief clips from the game. The IMDB trivia page cites the footage as coming from the 1992 matchup between the two teams, but that’s not right.

The clips are actually from the 1990 game, which was played at night. The Irish won that game, 28-24, which Hollywood turned into a loss.

1990 game:

CBS Sports

The film:

That’s actually Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac handing off to tailback Jon Vaughn. Desmond Howard was likely the one split wide.
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
Todd Lyght as a gunner on special teams
Columbia Pictures
This can’t be the 1992 game, as IMDB suggests, because Brian Townsend #45 graduated before then.
Columbia Pictures

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

I reached out to screenwriter Andrew Marlowe to ask why the script changed from Duke basketball to Michigan football.

I’ll update if I hear back from him on this very important topic.

You can rent or buy “Air Force One” on YouTube, Google Play or iTunes or on Blu-Ray through Amazon. The Irish and the Wolverines play for the 42nd time on Sept. 1. The Wolverines lead the series, 24-17-1.