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‘Tag’ you’re it: Spokane-born, decades-long game of tag coming to the big screen

UPDATED: Tue., March 20, 2018

The story of 10 Gonzaga Prep classmates and their epic, decades-long game of tag is coming to theaters this summer.

“Tag,” will be released June 15 and stars Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb and Isla Fisher. On Tuesday, viewers of “Ellen” will get the first look at the film’s trailer.

A 20-second teaser for the trailer – yes, a commercial for a commercial – went online Monday and shows Renner going all Avengers on Hamm, Helms getting slapped around and someone getting tagged at a funeral.

That last bit apparently really happened, at least according to a Doug Clark column in The Spokesman-Review in 2013, written shortly after the tag story went viral, thanks to a Wall Street Journal article and subsequent ESPN special.

Mike Konesky, one of the players who still lives in Spokane, said the game is still going strong. Bill Akers, a former Spokane resident now living in Seattle, is currently “it.”

The game started during their senior year at G-Prep, when the guys would tag each other going to and from class. The one tagged last at the end of the day was “it” until the next day, when the fun started again. After the guys graduated in 1983, the game fizzled out until eight years later, when some of the group had gathered for drinks and someone suggested reviving it. One of their group, a lawyer, drew up a contract outlining the rules, and the game, as they say, was afoot.

Each February for going on three decades, the player who has been “it” for the previous 11 months goes in search of one of his buddies upon whom he can bestow the title. The last one tagged in February gets stuck being “it” until the game resumes. As only three of them live in Spokane full time these days, travel often is involved, as well as subterfuge of many varieties.

Will Farrell, who initially bought the story rights along with Jack Black, is listed as a producer. Konesky said the group was very involved in helping select the studio to whom to sell their story rights. Beyond that, the film “Tag” is the creation of screenwriters Mark Steilen, who also is from Spokane, and Rob McKittrick.

Despite being filmed in Atlanta, “Tag” will keep its Spokane setting, Konesky said. One big change: The group of 10 guys has been whittled down to five, played by Hamm, Helms, Renner, Hannibal Buress and Jake Johnson. Jeff Tomsic, whose credits include “Comedy Underground with Dave Atell” and the T.J. Miller special “Meticulously Ridiculous,” directed, with principal filming done last summer in Atlanta, Konesky said.

“A couple weeks ago, they invited us all to be on the set because they were doing re-shoots,” Konesky said. While there, the group posed for some photos that he thinks will be woven into the marketing and maybe the end credits. “I haven’t seen the full trailer yet,” he said, adding he’ll have “Ellen” DVR’d Tuesday, “but I think we’re even at the end of the full trailer. … It’s been fun.”

Konesky admits the guys were a little concerned about the film being rated R, because they didn’t want to see it be raunchy and stupid. “But at the same time, me and my friends, a lot of the things we do are rated R,” he said with a laugh.

Konesky said only one of the 10 guys has seen a full cut of the film, a Catholic priest from Montana who asked to see the R-rated film before agreeing to participate in any publicity for it.

“He loved it, which was a big vote of confidence for all of us,” Konesky said. “There are a lot of great women in the cast. … The women figure prominently in the movie, and I know there’s an emotional thread that goes through it, which we love. Because yeah, it’s fun, it’s a stupid game, but at the end of the day, it’s about staying in touch with friends.”

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