S K I L L: BASKETBALL BOOT CAMP AND A VISIT FROM DON HASKINS
With the cast recruited, the next task was turning this ragtag group of athletes and actors into a team resembling the nation's hottest basketball talents. Three weeks before shooting began on GLORY ROAD, the filmmakers shipped the actors off to an intensive basketball boot camp in New Orleans. No matter how experienced or inexperienced the actors--whether they were pro ball players or hadn't picked up a ball in years--they were all treated equally and put through their paces with an endless series of drills and fundamentals designed to create a real sense of teamwork. Panting and grunts filled the gymnasium every day, as a sea of Chuck Taylor Classic Converse High Tops squeaked across the wood floor.
Along with Mike Fisher, the basketball boot camp was run by Tim Floyd, current coach of University of Southern California's Trojans and former NBA coach for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets. Floyd had worked as an assistant to Don Haskins for nine years so he could share inside knowledge with the cast about how it really was and push them into the kind of top performances Haskins demanded.
Fisher and Floyd agreed early on that this would be no Hollywood-style boot camp. There were no special privileges granted to anyone, and the guys were run ragged each and every day of camp as if basketball were the only thing that mattered. There were also no worries about hurting the actors' feelings with tough talk and pointed critiques. Instead, there was a deliberate effort to make the practices just as brutally hard as Haskins did for the Miners in the '60s.
One particular practice was quite special: the day Don Haskins himself showed up to meet the cast, share his remembrances of the period and, best of all, give the actors a taste of his inimitably uncompromising coaching style.
As practice began, Jerry Bruckheimer, Josh Lucas and the cast of players gathered around Haskins in a circle as the Hall of Fame coach reminisced to each actor about his real life character, giving each unique inspiration. Then, Haskins announced, "Let's play ball."
He did not hold back, spewing such typical phrases of fierce love at the awed actors as "What are you looking at?" and "You look like you are standing in mud. Pick up your feet and move." But Haskins also demonstrated another essential truth at the heart of his character--he was, underneath it all, a man who cared deeply about his players. Forty years later, Haskins revealed that he was still able to inspire a group of young men to want nothing more than to make him proud.
Throughout the inspirational practice with Haskins, Josh Lucas stuck like glue to the coach's side, watching his every move and word, and gaining further insight. Lucas comments, "He was just fascinating to watch--the way he used his psychology, his powers of intimidation, his humor. Most of all, I was impressed by how he used his incredible knowledge of basketball every single moment on the court. I realized that no matter how harsh he seemed, he was always teaching."
Says Jerry Bruckheimer: "With Don Haskins taking the time to meet and coach our cast, and Mike Fisher and Tim Floyd on board helming our basketball department, I think we had the best inspiration possible."
In addition to regular practices, the cast also had to work out the complex choreography for seven different basketball games. To help prepare, the cast members watched footage of some of the old Miners' games, including the championship game against Kentucky. They perused historical photographs of their characters and they worked closely with Fisher and Floyd, studying choreographed storyboards of each play that would be recreated for the film.
Surprise visits from real-life 1966 Miners Nevil Shed, Jerry Armstrong, David Lattin, Willie Cager and Willie Worsley, added further up-close-and-personal insights.
Before the boot camp began, some of the cast had strong basketball skills and no acting experience; others had strong acting experience but limited basketball skills. Now, as the cast began to grow closer, an exchange took place in which the secrets of one man's specialty were shared with another, and…a team was born.
Sums up Bruckheimer, "These kids really bonded with one another. Of course we worked them hard and that helped to bring them closer. I guess they even hated our basketball advisors for a while because they worked them so hard. But that was all part of trying to make a movie that feels so real, the audience is swept up in the story."
W I N N I N G: RECREATING THE GAME THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
The story of GLORY ROAD culminates in a pivotal scene for which Jerry Bruckheimer and James Gartner marshaled all their artistic resources--the 1966 NCAA championship game that changed history and was the pinnacle of all that Don Haskins hoped to achieve. The game had to be at once authentic and exciting, full of both the palpable tension and poetry in motion that made the David-and-Goliath matchup a nail-biting classic.
The production began by tracking down rare homemade footage that still existed of the game, as well as photographs from Texas Western yearbooks and over 30 priceless rolls of photographic film shot by Sports Illustrated. These helped to give the filmmakers a richer visual perspective of what happened during the game and what it looked like to the world.
Collaborating closely with directors of photography John Toon and Jeffrey L. Kimball, Gartner hoped to capture in the game both an authentic essence of 1966 as well as dynamic basketball moves that would speak to today's love of slick, fast-paced, tightly competitive action.
Attempting to shoot the beloved game with fresh eyes, the camera team used a number of innovative rigs to follow the action firsthand--and sometimes used as many as five cameras at once. Kimball notes, "We rigged a 'flying camera' above the basketball court sidelines that could slide on a thick wire as fast as gravity. We also built a skateboard dolly to capture action low to the court floor and a rickshaw type of rig so you could literally run up and down the court with the players. These techniques, along with cameras on cranes that looked right down into the basketball hoop, provided us with some very exciting footage."
Meanwhile, production designer Geoffrey Kirkland was also faced with the task of bringing to life mid-'60s college life in all his designs for GLORY ROAD. He worked closely with the art department in recreating the stadium atmosphere, right down to the signage and banners that were exact replicas of those used during the game. Even the old-fashioned electronic scoreboards were duplicated.
Gartner wanted the overall color palate of the film to feel very primal and earthy, echoing the environs of El Paso with its vibrant Mexican heritage. But he also wanted Kirkland to imbue the film with a fun sense of nostalgia. "When you remember things from the past, those memories are influenced by old photographs and old pictures that are not colorful. We wanted to capture that kind of black-and-white, sepia feeling but without ever being drab," says Kirkland.
Because of scheduling delays due to the looming Hurricane Ivan, a location for the big game had to be found at the spur of the moment. The filmmakers settled on a livestock show arena at the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge. The floor of the arena was dirt, so Kirkland constructed his own vintage basketball court made of wood. By this point, he had become an expert in converting modern gymnasiums back to a '60s period look--and had even forged a special "traveling" wood floor that could be quickly installed in different arenas for scenes of the Miners on the road.
Kirkland knew that every detail would count. "In other sports, arenas tend to be so huge so you can hide things seen in the background," he observes, "but a basketball arena is like a small theater in the round. You can see everything. It is very intimate."
Comments Jerry Bruckheimer: "It was really important to me that the film capture 1966 very authentically. Geoffrey Kirkland did a superb job as production designer and brought a lot of high-quality realism to the film."
Also adding to the realism was the period clothing designed by costume designer Alix Friedberg. Friedberg focused not only on the vintage basketball uniforms but also on the more formal clothing of those watching in the stands, right down to thick-rimmed black glasses for the men, cat-eyed glasses for the ladies, dazzling vintage jewelry, high-heeled pumps and brown leather loafers.
Friedberg was especially thrilled to have people who were there to witness the event giving her firsthand information. "From Don Haskins himself to the library at Texas El Paso, everyone just opened their doors to us. We were so fortunate to have this authentic information to create from," says Friedberg.
Friedberg and Gartner made the unusual decision to have the Miners' uniforms evolve during the course of the film, the colors becoming richer and warmer as the young men develop their unsinkable bonds as a team and work against the odds towards victory. They started with the authentic 1966 Texas Western uniform.
"I was so lucky because one of the players still had his original jersey from 1966 and let me borrow it to track down the mill that created the fabric," explains the production designer. "The mill was more than cooperative and they dusted off the machines they hadn't used for over thirty years and recreated the original jerseys for our movie. They used the exact yarn, the same pattern. Seam for seam, they are perfect replicas."
The resulting uniforms were a surprise to contemporary fans of the NBA. Says Jerry Bruckheimer, "When you look at the player uniforms from GLORY ROAD, you suddenly realize how wardrobe has changed for basketball in the last forty years. There was nothing oversized. Things fit snug back then, right down to the Chuck Taylor Classic Converses."
The challenges of going back in time also extended to the prop department, which had to make sure that even the concession cups would resemble the Coca-Cola design of 1966 and that the floor reporters would be tapping away on authentic Royal and Smith-Corona typewriters. Every detail was straight out of an old newsreel depicting the historic championship game.
How real did the GLORY ROAD set ultimately feel? Coach Pat Riley, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers and now president of the Miami Heat, who had played for the Kentucky Wildcats in the 1966 championship game, said he felt catapulted back in time when he visited the set. Riley comments: "It was clear from the moment they walked on the court the Miners had presence. More presence than us Wildcats. This is what won them the game. Coming to the set of GLORY ROAD was the first time I had met Don Haskins. It was strange and wonderful exchanging stories about the game almost forty years later. It was like it had happened yesterday."
JAMES GARTNER (DIRECTOR)
GLORY ROAD marks the film directorial debut of James Gartner, who has had an illustrious career in advertising. From his very first job as a disc jockey to his current position as one of the top commercial directors in the world, Gartner's philosophy has been to consistently focus on the quality of the work. Throughout the past twelve years, James has created an impressive body of work that includes worldwide clients such as AT&T, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Visa, among others. His international experience ranges from such geographically diverse spots as Federal Express to the famous Visa "Burro" in Italy.
When Gartner graduated from Farris State University, Michigan, he immediately entered the world of entertainment and media. He began working as a disc jockey for a rock radio station, then started producing and writing radio commercials in association with Chuck Blore and Ken Draper. He subsequently joined Bonneville Communications in Salt Lake City, where he wrote and produced a variety of commercials and public service announcements for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Gartner soon began directing projects, developing many classic storytelling spots driven by the emotions of everyday life and remembrances of childhood. He joined the newly formed Gibson Lefebvre Gartner (GLG), where his career began to flourish, catching the attention of numerous agencies throughout the nation. Within one year, James had been nominated and won his first of two Directors Guild of America Awards.
James' copywriting background still drives him to remain quite involved in the initial conceptual stage. On numerous projects, James enters the creative process during the early elements, collaborating on preliminary ideas. AT&T "Beaches" is a prime example in which James worked closely with the creative team from the original concept, together creating a touching story.
Although Gartner is primarily based out of Santa Monica, California, with additional offices in New York and Chicago, he resides in Traverse City, Michigan, with his wife Lauri and their three children.
CHRISTOPHER CLEVELAND & BETTINA GILOIS (WRITERS)
Screenwriter Christopher Cleveland has collaborated with such filmmakers as Michael Mann, William Friedkin, Robert DeNiro, Bob Zemeckis, Barbra Streisand, Norman Jewison, Taylor Hackford, John Badham, Brian Gibson and many more.
His wife, screenwriter and author Bettina Gilois, has worked with producers Joel Silver, Denise DerNovi, James Coburn, Arnold Kopelson, Lauren Shuyler Donner, and many others, as well as frequently collaborating with her husband.
They are each currently working on another film for Jerry Bruckheimer.
Between the two of them, they have penned more than forty screenplays.
They recently returned to Los Angeles with their two children, after spending ten years living between Santa Fe and their 8,000-acre cattle ranch in New Mexico.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER (PRODUCER)
Great stories, well told. They can be for audiences in darkened movie theaters or home living rooms. They can feature great movie stars or introduce new talent. They can be true adventure, broad comedy, heartbreaking tragedy, epic history, joyous romance or searing drama. They can be set in the distant or recent past, an only-imagined future or a familiar present. Whatever their elements, though, if they begin with a lightning bolt, they are stories being told by Jerry Bruckheimer, and they will be great stories, well told.
The numbers--of dollars and honors--are a matter of often-reported record. Bruckheimer's films have earned worldwide revenues of over $13.5 billion in box office, video and recording receipts. In the 2005-6 season he has nine series on network television, a feat unprecedented in nearly 60 years of television history. His work has been acknowledged with 35 Academy Award® nominations, five Oscars®, eight Grammy Award® nominations, five Grammys®, 23 Golden Globe® nominations, four Golden Globes®, 43 Emmy® Award nominations, seven Emmys®, 16 People's Choice nominations, six People's Choice Awards, and numerous MTV Awards, including one for Best Picture of the Decade.
But the numbers exist only because of Bruckheimer's uncanny ability to find the stories and tell them on film. He is, according to the Washington Post, "the man with the golden gut." He may have been born that way, but more likely, his natural gifts were polished to laser focus in the early years of his career. His first films were the 60-second tales he told as an award-winning commercial producer in his native Detroit. One of those mini-films, a parody of "Bonnie and Clyde" created for Pontiac, was noted for its brilliance in Time magazine and brought the 23-year-old producer to the attention of world-renowned ad agency BBD&O, which lured him to New York.
Four years on Madison Avenue gave him the experience and confidence to tackle Hollywood, and, not yet 30, he was at the helm of memorable films like "Farewell, My Lovely," "American Gigolo" and 1983's "Flashdance," which changed Bruckheimer's life by grossing $92 million in the U.S. alone and pairing him with Don Simpson, who would be his producing partner for the next thirteen years.
Together, the Simpson/Bruckheimer juggernaut produced one hit after another, including "Top Gun," "Days of Thunder," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Bad Boys," "Dangerous Minds" and "Crimson Tide." Box-office success was acknowledged in both 1985 and 1988, when the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) named Bruckheimer Producer of the Year. And in 1988 the Publicists Guild of America named him, along with Simpson, Motion Picture Showmen of the Year.
In 1996, Bruckheimer produced "The Rock," re-establishing Sean Connery as an action star and turning an unlikely Nicolas Cage into an action hero. "The Rock," named Favorite Movie of the Year by NATO, grossed $350 million worldwide and was Bruckheimer's last movie with Simpson, who died during production.
Now on his own, Bruckheimer followed in 1997 with "Con Air," which grossed over $230 million, earned a Grammy® and two Oscar® nominations and brought its producer the ShoWest International Box Office Achievement Award for unmatched foreign grosses.
Then came Touchstone Pictures' megahit "Armageddon," starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler and Steve Buscemi. Directed by Michael Bay, it was the biggest movie of 1998, grossing nearly $560 million worldwide and introducing legendary rock band Aerosmith's first number-one single, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."
By the end of the millennium, Bruckheimer had produced "Enemy of the State," starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman, and "Gone in 60 Seconds," starring Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall, both grossing over $225 million worldwide; "Coyote Ugly," whose soundtrack album went triple platinum; and the NAACP Image Award-winning "Remember the Titans," starring Denzel Washington. His peers in the Producers Guild of America acknowledged his genius with the David O. Selznick Award for Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures.
He began the 21st century with triple Oscar® nominee "Pearl Harbor." Starring Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale and directed by Bay, the film was hailed by World War II veterans and scholars as a worthy re-creation of the event that brought the United States into the war. In addition to multiple award nominations and the Oscar® for Best Sound Editing, it earned over $450 million worldwide and has topped $250 million in DVD and video sales.
"Black Hawk Down," the story of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, starred Hartnett, Eric Bana and Ewan McGregor and was directed by Ridley Scott. The adaptation of the Mark Bowden bestseller was honored with multiple award nominations, two Oscars® and rave reviews.
And then, in 2003, Bruckheimer unveiled "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Keira Knightley and directed by Gore Verbinski, the comedy/adventure/romance grossed more than $630 million worldwide, making it Bruckheimer's highest-grossing film, earning five Academy Award® nominations and spawning two upcoming sequels.
Since then, The Films That Begin With The Lightning Bolt have included "Bad Boys II"; the raucously funny "Kangaroo Jack," a family film that won an MTV Award for Best Virtual Performance for the kangaroo; "Veronica Guerin," starring a luminous Cate Blanchett as the Irish journalist murdered by Dublin crime lords; and "King Arthur," with Clive Owen starring in the revisionist retelling of the Arthurian legend.
In 2004, "National Treasure," starring Cage and Sean Bean in a roller-coaster adventure about solving the mystery of untold buried treasure, opened to cheering audiences and grossed more than $335 million worldwide.
Could the master film storyteller make the same magic in 47 minutes for the living-room audience? Apparently. As Time magazine recently wrote, "The most successful producer in film history…is on his way to becoming the most successful producer in the history of TV."
Bruckheimer brought the power of the lightning bolt to television in 2000 with "C.S.I.," starring William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger. It quickly became the number-one show on television, averaging 25 million viewers a week, and, along with its two spin-offs, "C.S.I.: Miami" and "C.S.I.: NY," helped catapult languishing CBS back to the top of the broadcast heap.
Also telling the stories and delivering viewers in huge numbers are Bruckheimer Television's "Without a Trace," "Cold Case," "Amazing Race" and "Close to Home" on CBS; "E-Ring" for NBC; and, coming mid-season, "Modern Men" for the WB.
Bruckheimer has been successful in many genres and multiple mediums because he's a great storyteller.
Look for the lightning bolt. The best stories are right behind it.
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