When R. Scott Murphy attended MU as a naive freshman, a group of clever student pranksters caught his eye. Two decades later, Murphy is a successful advertising executive in Austin, Texas, but he is still captivated by MU’s ornery Antlers.
Murphy, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MU’s journalism school in the late 1980s, wrote a screenplay after being prodded by friends and colleagues to turn his fascination with the Antlers into a movie.
“They’re just a unique group that’s very Missouri,” Murphy said of making the Antlers the centerpiece of his screenplay, simply titled “Antlers.”
“Like them or hate them, they’re more Mizzou than just about anything,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the film flashes back to 1983 and is loosely based on his own learning experiences during that year. Midnite, the lead character, is a socially inexperienced college kid obsessed with popular music and Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. His life becomes entangled with a girl named Katie, and he’ll do anything to impress her — including pledging membership in the notorious Antlers.
Aaron Buerge, former star of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” has been cast to star as Midnite, and Murphy said a well-known actress will soon be announced as co-star.
Murphy said that by mixing the antics of the Antlers and a well-known reality-TV hunk into a romantic comedy, the movie will be an edgy, independent film. The movie will be the first film from Murphy’s Cactus Animal Productions, an independent company based in Austin that Murphy formed in 1999 with director Stephen Pullen.
The Antlers are infamous for pushing the envelope. Their antics have included taunting opposing teams and pulling off flabbergasting pranks. They once greeted a visiting University of Arkansas basketball team with a freshly slaughtered hog head. This year, they irritated Kansas coach Roy Williams with phone calls in the middle of the night the week before the Missouri game.
Antler Grand Poobah Greg Miller said it’s been a like whirlwind since the group found out about the film.
“At first we were a bit apprehensive, but we’ve had a few conversations with the production people and they seem pretty cool — they want to talk to us,” Miller said.
Murphy said that although his busy schedule as a local disc Jockey prevented him from joining the Antlers during his college years, the group left an indelible impression on him.
“I was immersed in the Antlers,” Murphy said. “I sat by them at football games and would come home just as hoarse as they did.”
To keep the movie as realistic as possible, Murphy hopes to gather “every Antler that ever existed.” After posting a “Calling all Antlers” page on the movie Web site, www.antlersmovie.com, Murphy said Cactus Animal has received dozens of calls and e-mails.
While Murphy acknowledged that most people would not expect to see a guy like Aaron Buerge in a role like this, he said that’s what makes it interesting.
Director Stephen Pullen plans to start shooting the movie in January, but he said that hinges on whether the $2 million needed to make the film is raised by mid-November. Pullen expects “Antlers” to be a major distribution film with a possible release next August or September.
Tracy Caraway, Cactus Animal’s producer, said some of the movie will be filmed in Austin and Springfield, Mo., but the team would love to shoot scenes on the MU campus.
A native of Jefferson City, Murphy used his background to give the film a Midwestern sensibility. He said both Missouri and MU reflect that sensibility, and that’s the essence of the script.
Buerge and Caraway will also help the film come alive with Missouri style, Murphy says.
“These are clever guys with unabashed flavor,” Murphy said. “We want people to say, ‘That’s an intelligent prank squad that helps give Mizzou its flavor.’”