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January 2005
Glory Road: An Interview with Jerry Bruckheimer

Glory Road: An Interview with Jerry Bruckheimer

By Wilson Morales

If there was ever a producer who knows how to switch gears but still wants to make a hit, it’s Jerry Bruckheimer. Although he’s has numerous films become blockbusters, Bruckheimer likes to go in the past and bring history to the theaters. He scored with “Remember The Titans”, a football story from the South that starred Denzel Washington and now he’s bringing the story of the basketball team that defied racism and won a national championship. In “Glory Road”, Josh Lucas plays legendary basketball coach Don Haskins from Texas Western University. In 1966, Haskins started five African-Americans against Coach Adolph Rupp and his Kentucky Wildcats and won the hearts of many as history was changed. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Bruckheimer talks about his passion for bringing this story to the big screen.

Disney seems to be in the business of annually of having a real life sports story done in film. Is this the new genre or a revival of the old genre?

Jerry Bruckheimer: No, I think it’s because of Dick Cook. Dick Cook is the head of the Disney film company and marketing and everything. He loves athletics; he was an exceptional baseball player. I think he played for USC and he loves these types of stories. It was certainly fueled by “Remember The Titans”, “The Rookie”, “Miracle” and all those pictures performed well and Dick loves it. He would love to keep the tradition of making movies like Glory Road and Titans as well as the other things that they have done.


Are they difficult ?

JB: Everything is difficult (laughing). Anytime you take on a movie its difficult. The hardest thing to do is try and get a good screenplayÉ.and thatÕs what we work so hard at. It takes a lot of our brain cells to get it as good as you can get it. We never quite get there, but we get as close as we can.

ArenÕt you known as someone who goes into films and lets the screenplay be mixed up ?

JB: No. Sometimes you go into filming and its not quite where you want it to be, so you have to continueÉwell itÕs usually that wayÉsometimes its in a lot worse shape that what you want it. You hope to have it in better shape. This one was in pretty good shape when we got to filming it. We did have writers working with us on the set to spruce some things up.

Two writers?

JB: Chris Cleveland was always involved in the project from the time he wrote it. When we had other writers come in; he was still involved and got pages. We keep everybody involved. We donÕt fire writers and say, Ōdo come backÕ; especially original writers.

We are seeing more and more with movies like Annapolis and its boxing, that actors really have to have a lot more than just acting these days. ThatÕs putting an enormous strain on them isnÕt it?

JB: These kinds of films are quit physical. Our kids went through a very difficult basketball camp before the movie started which was run by an ex-assistant to Don Haskins and even Don Haskins on occasion and Tim Floyd who is now the coach to USC basketball team. First of all, we cast them as basketball players first. We went the other route and had a bunch of actors come in who were wonderful actors, and they all said they could play basketball, but when we got them on the court none of them could play basketball. So they lied (laughing). So we went out and had open calls in a bunch of cities and found great basketball players and weeded down the good basketball players who could play basketball and act. The kids who play Willie Cager (Damaine Radcliff) and David Lattin (Schin A. S. Kerr) both of them have never acted before.

The style of basketball from the 1960Õs to today is much different. Is there a concern form yourself and the studio that you would try to make it look more modern in terms of the games from the past?

JB: It was more of a concern on my part and not from the studioÕs part. We tried to have a combination of the two. We certainly did it in the last couple of games where you actually see guys dunk balls. They were doing much of that back in the Ō60Õs. ItÕs a combination.

How big of a risk was it not to put a big marquee star like Denzel Washington in the movie to help sell the story?

JB: ItÕs a big risk and thatÕs why we had a preview this weekend. Had we had a movie star in this we wouldnÕt need the previews; because then you would know the movie is coming. Since there is not a movie star in the movieÉJosh [Lucas] is on his way, but certainly hasnÕt carried a huge movie yet.

So what did you find out from the previews last night? Was it 90% attendance?

JB: No. If it was 90% attendance you wouldnÕt do a preview. It you are 40 to 50% in attendance, then you have a real problem. If you are close to 70%, then you did the right thing and thatÕs exactly where we were. The exit polls were phenomenal. 88% definitely recommend. ThatÕs the highest I ever had on a movie. Even Pirates of the Caribbean didnÕt have an 88% recommend.

Where you traveling around with the guys on the private plane from city to city? Tell us about that experience of hanging out wit the guys outside of the work environment.

JB: They were a blast. Al Shearer is the pied piper (laughter). Anybody who is African-American knows Al Shearer from his show on BET (Hitz). Everybody smiles and wants to shake his hand and heÕs real charming and very funny. HeÕs a great guy to be around.

Mechad (Brooks) has become a star because of Desperate Housewives, so all the women know him. Where ever he goes women want to take pictures and want his autograph. And Josh because of Sweet Home Alabama and other things; so its fun to be around them. They are all really good guys. There isnÕt a mean bone in any of their bodies. They donÕt play the star game; sleep late or do all that silly stuff that some people do or have attitudes with fans. They are a fun group. Believe me I have better things to do than hang out and run out to 14 cities. It was one of those things in life that IÕll never forget. I was great.

People are already saying I donÕt like sports, but I like this movie. How do you find the middle universal ground for people who arenÕt sports fans to relate to this movie?

JB: ItÕs about the character. If you can develop these characters into people that you really like. Make them real or somebody that you would like to be like or enjoy watching and care about what happens to them. ThatÕs a good sign and thatÕs why women like this picture. You can care about these kids; you can care about the coach. Their intensions are pure and thatÕs really nice to see. ItÕs also an uplifting film for mothers to take there kids to. A, to educate them and B, to entertain them. ItÕs heartfelt. How many heartfelt movies have you seen over the last year? Not that many. ThatÕs why I think we got a high Ōdef recommendÕ on this picture.

What was the most daring, risky or courageous thing you ever did to get a job?

JB: The riskiest thing was to come to California after being very successful in the advertising business. I was making $70k a year and back in those days that was a lot of money in New York. And came here make $200 a week to find my way in Hollywood to produce films. ThatÕs the riskiest thing I ever did. I have always bet on my own talent. If IÕm going to fail I would rather fail on what I do and not because of anyone else.

How did Alicia Keys become the featured vocalist on the project?

JB: We showed her the movie and she loved it. All of her people loved it. Managers loved it; producers loved it. She was so proud of it. She came to the premiere. She brought all of her people from New York. SheÕs just thrilled. She said itÕs just the right message to send to kids to educate them. SheÕs a big believer in the fact that this movie will further change and educate. She does things from her heart and she felt this was an important movie.

You are a big sports fan. Did you know about story?

JB: No, Pat Riley told me the story about ten years ago. Prior to that I had not heard of this story.

Why do you think it was so buried in sports history?

JB: ThatÕs a good question to ask Chris Cleveland because heÕs the one who got the rights to the story. I really should ask him why nobody made the movie. I think a lot of people had the rights, but somehow never got the right screenplay or got it to the right people.

What is your criteria for choosing projects now?

JB: Do I wanna see it? ItÕs just that simple. If I wanna see it; then I try and make it. ThatÕs it. I donÕt know what you like, I donÕt know what the audience likes; but I know what I like.

Talk about selecting James Gartner to direct and whatÕs the formula these days when you are plucking a director out of the advertising field.

JB: ItÕs all about talent and their work. We looked at about 35 minutes of his work and it was extraordinary. We have been after James for years to direct for us and we could never find something that he wanted to leave his business for. He makes a great living. He lives in Michigan and is so far away from the advertising and movie world. He has a family that he is close to and is thinking Ōwhy should I leave home unless its something exceptional.

Does that happen frequently when you are trying to woo a TV director?

JB: There are a lot of talented guys who you try to get

Do they refuse you?

JB: Sure because the oneÕs we are after are usually very wealthy because they are really good and they donÕt need the money. They make more than most studio heads.

How are you promoting this movie?

JB: We did a 14-city tour and that was a big thing. We went into every city and brought in opinion makers like the NAACP and city governments. A number of basketball teams have seen the movie; The Houston Rockets, The Miami Heat, both national championships team have seen it to create word of mouth.




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