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GLORY ROAD

By Kathryn Ward,2014-08-11 06:53
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GLORY ROAD

    GLORY ROAD

    About the Production

    “It’s not about talent, it’s about heart.

    It’s about who can go out there and play the hardest. They’re

    not going to give us anything, so you’ve got to go out there and

    you’ve got to take it.”

    -- Coach Don Haskins

     For Don Haskins, the dream was always about winning: winning with guts, heart and grit; winning with self-respect; and winning even when the odds were completely stacked against you. What Haskins didn‟t know in 1966 – when he was just a small-town family man trying to make an

    indelible mark in his first job as a collegiate basketball coach -- is that his underdog team‟s incredible

    victory would transcend sport and change not only his life and the lives of his players, but the country itself.

     Haskins and his scrappy Texas Western Miners were unwittingly about to revolutionize basketball and the American landscape. It was still a time of innocence in the United States, yet the country was on the verge of major social changes when Haskins decided to play an all-African-American opening line-up at the NCAA championships against the all-white juggernaut of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Haskins did it to win. But his bold decision would help break down barriers of segregation that affected every segment of society and set a new course for the future as his team did the one thing they could to prove themselves to a watching world: they played their hearts out.

     From Walt Disney Pictures, in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and based on a true story, comes GLORY ROAD, the inspirational story of a man who would let nothing stand in the way of victory, not even decades of inequality.

    Josh Lucas (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “A Beautiful Mind”) stars as Coach Don Haskins, whose strident belief in finding players of fire and skill and then instilling in them the qualities of

    teamwork, discipline, devotion and respect had a profound effect on the game of basketball and the

    lives of everyone he touched. Derek Luke (“Antwone Fisher”) plays Bobby Joe Hill, the rebellious

    but unstoppably talented guard from Detroit who became the team‟s star player. Starring as Haskins‟ ultimate rival, Adolph Rupp, the notoriously brash coach of the Kentucky Wild Cats, is Academy Award? winner Jon Voight.

    Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Remember the

    Titans,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Armageddon”) produces under his Jerry Bruckheimer Films banner. Director James Gartner makes his feature film directorial debut, after working for years on innovative commercial campaigns, and Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois and Gregory Allen Howard penned the script. The film‟s executive producers are Mike Stenson and Chad Oman (“National Treasure,” “Bad Boys II,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Pearl Harbor,”

    “Black Hawk Down,” “Remember the Titans”) and Andy Given (“Alexander the Great,” “T3: The

    Rise of the Machines,” “National Security,” “Basic”).

    Also starring in GLORY ROAD as the long-shot Texas Western Miners are a cast of exciting newcomers including Mehcad Brooks as Harry Flournoy, Mitch Eakins as Dick Meyers, Alejandro Hernandez as David Palacio, Samuel Jones III as Willie Worlsey, Schin A.S. Kerr as David Lattin, Alphonso McAuley as Orsten Artis, Austin Nichols as Jerry Armstrong, James Olivard as Louie Boudoin, Damaine Radcliff as Willie Cager, Al Shearer as Nevil Shed and Kip Weeks as Togo Railey. Emily Deschanel plays Mary Haskins and Tatyana Ali plays Tina, love interest to Bobby Joe. Red West and Evan Jones also star as the assistant coaches.

     The film‟s creative team includes directors of photography John Toon, ACS and Jeffrey

    Kimball, (“Mission Impossible II,” “Top Gun”), Oscar?-nominated production designer Geoffrey

    Kirkland (“Angela‟s Ashes,” “Mississippi Burning,” “The Right Stuff”), costume designer Alix Friedberg (“A Lot Like Love,” “Around the Bend,” “Cursed”) and Oscar-nominated editor John

    Wright, A.C.E. (“The Passion of the Christ,” “Rollerball,” “X-Men”).

    I. T E A M W O R K:

    THE TRUE STORY BEHIND GLORY ROAD

     In 1965, on the heels of the landmark Civil Rights Act passed by Congress, American sports were on the cusp of change but they needed a bold catalyst. Basketball in particular was quickly gaining in popularity, speeding up and shifting in style, especially as new celebrity players such as Wilt Chamberlain were changing the face of the NBA. Yet there remained the question of finding the new talent that would fuel the game‟s future. The truth was that college basketball, like other collegiate activities, was still mired in unjust policies of segregation and racial inequality and

    opportunities were still being denied to some of the country‟s most thrilling and undiscovered athletic talents.

    Don Haskins, who was just another tough-talking, hard-driving high-school basketball coach, seized the opportunity to fulfill his personal quest to become a champion when Texas Western hired as their coach. To create a team with the greatest chance at victory, Haskins believed he should recruit the best raw talent he could no matter what their race, background or life story.

    As early as the late 1950s Texas Western University (now renamed University of Texas El Paso) began to offer athletic scholarships to a limited number of African American players. In the 1960s, that policy was kicked into high gear by Haskins, who despite being a complete unknown, came to Texas Western ready to prove himself as a coach of unique vision.

    Searching for authentic talent and the hunger to win, Haskins aggressively recruited in a color-blind fashion, heading into the inner cities of Detroit and New York, where basketball was still a hotly contested, up-tempo street game. Ultimately, Haskins forged an integrated team that was, in a rare change for a Southern university, predominantly black. Once he had assembled his explosively talented but inexperienced team, Haskins drove his athletes with his notoriously tough but heartfelt coaching methods to give every game -- and every challenging situation in their lives -- their all.

     In 1966, Haskin‟s and the team‟s brutally hard work began to pay off big-time. In an

    incredible season of victories, the Miners won 27 games and lost just one, the same record as their equally fierce rivals in the NCAA championships: the all-white University of Kentucky Wildcats. As the championship game got under way, in front of packed stands and a national television audience, Haskins made a decision that would alter everything: he chose to play an all-black starting lineup. Though the Miners were considered a long shot, their tenacious rebounds, precision shooting and unflagging spirit spurred them to a victory so stirring that no one who saw it would ever forget it.

    The amazing triumph did more than excite the fans. It helped shift the national perception of African American athletes and bring about the widespread desegregation of college sports. In turn, the desegregation of sports helped to spread greater equality throughout American society. Haskins, who continued to be an inspirational and winning coach, became a hero. Admired by his peers for his courage and his larger-than-life personality he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

     Yet few people today know the story of Don Haskins and the dream-come-true NCAA victory a story that producer Jerry Bruckheimer felt was one of the great classics of American history when he first heard about it years ago from NBA star Pat Riley. When Bruckheimer had the opportunity to obtain the rights to Haskins‟ story, he was thrilled to bring this largely unknown tale of

    courage and grit to the screen.

    “What‟s so interesting about Don Haskins is that he wasn‟t looking to make any kind of statement. He simply was driven to win,” says Bruckheimer. “Yet in making winning his priority, he

    changed history. Prior to Haskins‟ heartfelt decision to have an all African American starting line-up

    at the championship game, there were many opportunities missed by gifted athletes. Haskins‟ actions inspired a lot of players to go on and have illustrious NBA careers. He was an amazing person who had an indelible impact on a lot of lives.”

    Bruckheimer continues: “I think this is an especially important story to tell today because a lot of kids no longer realize how hard the players and coaches in the 60s had to fight to bring them the incredible opportunities that exist now.”

     In developing the story of the 1966 NCAA championship into a feature film, Bruckheimer always saw it as much being much broader than simply a “sports drama.” He saw it as being about

    the human drive to excel.

    “Don Haskins is a fascinating character: a hard-charger and a tough personality who

    demanded a lot from the people around him,” observes Bruckheimer. “He understood something very key which is that to become a champion it takes a lot of character and a lot of hard work. That is what lies at the heart of this story,” says Bruckheimer.

     Bruckheimer‟s production team was equally excited by the material. “We felt that any story that was so inspirational, surprising and true would resonate deeply with audiences,” says executive producer Mike Stenson. Adds executive producer Chad Oman, “There are a few iconic moments in sports that made a difference in history and this is one of them. But it‟s also a very human story

    about a young coach who came out of nowhere and discovered he had something great to give.”

     Executive producer Andy Given, who grew up in El Paso and knew Don Haskins and his family, saw the film as a dream come true. “I have wanted to see this movie made since I was a kid,” he says. “I always knew it would make a great movie – it was a moment that became almost a kind of

    emancipation proclamation for sports -- but it took someone of Jerry Bruckheimer to get it made.”

    When director James Gartner came on board, he too began to see Haskins story in a larger light. “The real story of GLORY ROAD is what happens off the basketball court,” notes Gartner. “One of the original players from the team once said „We didn‟t break down all the doors, but we

    opened some‟ and that is why this story is so important to tell.”

    Bruckheimer had been chasing after Gartner to make a feature film for years, having been highly impressed with Gartner‟s directorial work in advertising. The veteran producer believed

    Gartner had the right sensibilities for GLORY ROAD‟s mix of 60s innocence, hard-charging sports

    action and moments of human inspiration. “James has been directing touching, wonderful commercials for years, and he has a real moral vision matched the story. He also has very unique visual style, that is really important to this picture because it combines authenticity, heart and humor,” says Bruckheimer.

    When Bruckheimer approached him, Gartner had never even heard of Don Haskins, but he soon was completely taken with his story. “For me it wasn‟t just another script, but a true story about an important time in America‟s history,” he says.

    For Gartner, tackling a real page out of recent U.S. history in his first outing as a film director was a thrilling challenge. “The journey of making GLORY ROAD has been incredibly rewarding,” he says. “Obviously we took some artistic license as this isn‟t intended to be a biopic, but nevertheless I felt a tremendous responsibility to capture the true essence of Haskins‟ story. This

    story is beloved by so many from the streets of El Paso where it took place, to parents telling their children the tale as a bedtime story. Just as Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, in many ways Don Haskins and his team did the same for basketball.”

    II. D I S C I P L I N E:

    ABOUT THE CHARACTERS AND CAST OF GLORY ROAD

THE COACH: Josh Lucas as Don Haskins

     The heart of GLORY ROAD is the story of the unstoppable drive and courage of Don Haskins so it was key from the beginning to find the right young actor to portray the green but passionately ambitious coach whose love of winning spurred major changes in the game of basketball and the equality of college sports. The filmmakers were unanimously agreed that Josh Lucas, the rising young star who came to the fore in “A Beautiful Mind” and “Sweet Home Alabama” and has appeared most recently in such films as “Stealth” and “An Unfinished Life”, had a palpable connection to the essence of Haskins his ability to be at once intimidating, demanding, merciless

    and also incredibly inspirational.

     Says Jerry Bruckheimer: “Josh Lucas was the right man to play Don Haskins. There is an intensity to him and most importantly he knows how to motivate other actors and he threw himself into the role with complete devotion.”

     Director James Gartner adds, “From the very beginning, Josh was sensitive to what he needed

    to do to bring Don Haskins to life on screen. An actor must bring their individual personality to a role, and Josh did a fabulous job making this character his own.”

     Lucas was stunned when he learned the story of GLORY ROAD and moved by Haskins‟ role in it. “I don‟t think a lot of people realize that basketball was so segregated until this point,” says the actor. “There were basically all black leagues and all white leagues. If it was an integrated team, then the couple of black players sat on the bench most of the time. In this atmosphere, Texas Western

beating Kentucky was more than just a game it was a turning point in society and an exciting

    moment in history most people know very little about.”

     He continues, “The cool thing about Haskins is the he was basically color blind. He never understood why white players couldn‟t play against black players and vice versa. It made no sense to

    him. He just wanted to find the best players he could recruit no matter who they were or where they

    were from, as long as they had that potential. It was as simple as that to him.”

     Lucas dove headlong into Haskins‟ life and times, researching every possible aspect of life in

    1960s Texas. His trailer on the set was lined with more than 700 pictures of Haskins, the team as well as general news clippings from the era.

    Lucas even gained thirty-five pounds during production to better emulate the famously bear-like body type of Haskins during his coaching days. “Haskins was addicted to basketball, so I knew if I was going to play him successfully, I had to start sharing that philosophy,” the actor says of his approach.

    To further get into the role, Lucas began coaching the other cast members during their intensive basketball practices, running drills on the court with no mercy just as Haskins once did. He knew he had to assert his authority over the team even before the cameras started rolling even if it

    meant temporarily getting tough with his fellow actors.

    But the softer side of Haskins comes out in his home life with his children and his wife, Mary, who always believed in him and spurred him towards the greatness he achieved. To play Mary, the filmmakers chose Emily Deschanel, the star of Fox‟s new series “Bones” and whose film credits include “Cold Mountain” and “Spider Man 2.” Says Deschanel, “Mary and Don had such a unique relationship, and to this day you can still see the softness and warmth between them. Throughout the film you can see Don being the disciplinarian coach that he was, but he wasn‟t that tough when he came home. I think every person needs someone in their life to keep them humble and grounded. That is what Mary did for Don.”

    Ultimately, Lucas says that Haskins has become the most complex and interesting character of his screen career. “I loved playing Don because there‟s so much duality to him. He was complex,

    intimidating, rip-roaringly funny and honest to a fault. He could spew rattlesnake venom but at the same time he was this totally generous bear of a personality who was gracious with everybody. Don Haskins is a figure of mythic status, not just in El Paso, but around the world and I feel really proud and honored to have had this chance to play him.”

    Executive producer Andy Given, who knows Don Haskins personally, was especially impressed by Lucas‟ performance. “Having grown up with the Haskins and having spent time with Don and his sons in my childhood, I have to say I think Josh Lucas nailed the part. It was uncanny.”

THE STAR PLAYER: Derek Luke as Bobby Joe Hills

     Bobby Joe Hill, the feisty guard from Detroit who helped lead his Texas team to a historic victory in 1966, was once called by Don Haskins the greatest competitor he ever knew. To portray the star player, who was also coined “Rebel” by his teammates. The filmmakers turned to one of

    today‟s most promising new screen stars, Derek Luke, who won widespread acclaim for portraying

    the inspiring title role in “Antwone Fisher.”

     Luke was immediately drawn to the role and to the idea of playing a young man who

    demonstrated true passion in life both on and off the court. “Bobby Joe‟s fun-loving spirit and

    confidence shined no matter what he did. That is what made him such an amazing player and also makes him such a great character,” he says. “I loved the story of GLORY ROAD because it‟s about so much more than basketball. It‟s about the lives of the coach