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Who’d portray the big-screen version of Bruce Arians? Perhaps another Bruce

The question comes as Netflix prepares to release a film about Saints coach Sean Payton.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians, left, and actor Bruce Willis, right.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians, left, and actor Bruce Willis, right. [ [Times files (2019); AP Photo/Katy Winn (2011)] ]
Published Dec. 15, 2021|Updated Dec. 15, 2021

TAMPA — With the impending release of a Netflix movie about Saints coach Sean Payton, Bucs coach Bruce Arians was asked Wednesday who’d portray him in a film.

His response spanned two generations: baby boomers, and the one before that.

“He’s too old now, but probably Nick Nolte,” Arians quipped. “Or Bruce Willis?”

Indeed, Nolte’s 6-foot-1 frame and rugged features (including a gray beard known for various stages of growth) might have borne a stronger physical resemblance to a middle-aged Arians at one point, but the two-time Academy Award nominee is 80.

By contrast, Willis — star of the Die Hard franchise — is 66, only three years younger than Arians. Like the Bucs coach, he also sports a bald pate these days, and stands a solid 6 feet.

Moreover, his selection to portray Arians almost certainly wouldn’t be derided as much as the dude playing a fictionalized version of Payton.

Kevin James, the 56-year-old comedian whose cinematic roles include the title character in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, stars in Home Team, a “family comedy” set to premiere on Netflix in late January.

Produced by Adam Sandler’s production company, the film focuses on Payton coaching his son’s youth team during his yearlong NFL suspension in the wake of the Saints’ Bountygate scandal.

The trailer can be seen here. Payton and the Saints (6-7), who have won six consecutive regular-season games against the Bucs (10-3), seek No. 7 Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium.

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