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Giants' Steve Tisch hopes to score knockout with film 'Southpaw'

Giants chairman Steve Tisch watches the Knicks play

Giants chairman Steve Tisch watches the Knicks play the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on Friday, April 13, 2012. Credit: David Pokress

Steve Tisch has two jobs, either of which would land him high on anyone's cool kids list: big-time Hollywood producer and chairman of the New York Football Giants.

Even cooler, he is believed to be the only person to earn both a Super Bowl ring and an Oscar.

So it was that minutes after the Giants won Super Bowl XLII someone asked Tisch which trophy he would give back if he had to choose one -- his Best Picture Academy Award for "Forrest Gump" or the Lombardi Trophy in his hand.

Tisch said he would return the Oscar, in part because the Giants had provided more thrills than any film ever could.

"I said for the last three hours we saw drama, action, a surprise ending no one would believe in a movie, characters you root for, characters you root against and unlike in a movie it was unscripted and unrehearsed," he said yesterday, recalling his answer in 2008.

"And I'm still asked that question and that's still basically my answer. Everything most people like about good movies I felt millions of people witnessed in both of our [Super Bowl] games against the Patriots."

The strange thing is that after four decades in movies and a quarter century after his father, Bob, bought 50 percent of the Giants, Tisch had not produced a single sports-themed film, a hole in his resume he mostly attributed to happenstance.

That changes Friday with the release of "Southpaw," an old-school -- some have and will call it clichéd -- boxing movie that stars Jake Gyllenhaal (and his abs) as a fighter with anger management issues who bleeds more than Chuck Wepner.

Tisch and his producing partners came to the project after the script was written -- originally for Eminem -- and thus had little input in the story development.

But he acknowledged the challenge of making a fresh boxing movie after a century of precedent. The key, he said, is creating a compelling character, be it a fictional one such as Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa or Gyllenhaal's Billy Hope or a real one such as Robert DeNiro's Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull."

"I think the main character is almost a Job-like character, and how he takes on his emotional fights, his real fights, his personal fights, is always kind of the foundation of these kinds of stories," Tisch said.

As derivative as the tale is, Gyllenhaal's performance is gripping and the boxing scenes are more realistic than most. "If you were to watch 'Southpaw' and turn the sound off, I think physically the movie is beautifully, beautifully made," Tisch said.

Tisch might next turn to a sport with which he is more closely associated. He is involved with a movie with a script in development about former NFL players who coach a team in China.

"Since I got involved with the Giants about 10 years ago when my father got sick it's certainly been something that's been on my mind," he said. "I have talked to writers about different projects with football, both at the professional and college level, as a background."

Team president John Mara oversees the day-to-day business of the Giants, but with camp opening next week, more of Tisch's time will shift from films to football.

But it's all show biz. "Whether it's MetLife stadium with 82,500 seats or a movie theater on Broadway with 800 seats, it's about filling those seats," he said.

Friday will feel a lot like the start of the 2015 opener in Texas Sept. 13.

"It's now five minutes to kickoff and there's a lot of anticipation and at a certain point at the start of the first kickoff in a game and the first time 'Southpaw' plays on movie screens it's no longer in our control," he said.

"It is out of my hands. That's very exciting."

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