University of Texas at El Paso
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Making the Movie

“Glory Road” Captures the Spirit of an Era

Fall 2005: After 40 long years, it’s here at last.

“Glory Road,” the Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer film about coach Don Haskins and his 1966 Texas Western College NCAA basketball champions, opens nationwide on Jan. 13, 2006.

Some moviegoers got a sneak peek at the film at UTEP in November during a special screening to raise money for an exhibit on the ’66 champs. But most fans around the country had to whet their appetite for “Glory Road” with a trailer that began appearing in theaters and on movie Web sites in September.

Carlos Gonzalez, a 1985 UTEP computer science graduate who lives in St. Louis, watched the trailer on the Web.

“The movie looks great. I’m really excited to see it,” Gonzalez says. Long used to blank looks when he tells Midwesterners what university he graduated from, he says he’s pleased that El Paso and his alma mater are in the spotlight now with “Glory Road.”

A scene from Glory Road; the team huddled up by Coach Haskins
"Glory Road" puts Texas Western College (now UTEP) back in the national spotlight.

photo by Frank Connor © 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The anticipation for the film started growing about two years ago, when Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Productions got the wheels turning on the project. Headlines were soon made when actor Ben Affleck, then in a much-publicized relationship with actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, was tapped to play Haskins. El Paso’s response to the casting decision was mixed. Affleck was notorious for his flopped films, and he didn’t much physically resemble the city’s beloved basketball coach, nicknamed “The Bear.”

But Affleck pulled out of the project, citing “scheduling conflicts.” The role of The Bear went to rising star Josh Lucas, who made a name for himself in movies such as “A Beautiful Mind” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

To prepare for the role, Lucas spent many hours with Haskins. Lucas soon came to know the coach’s fierce determination for winning, his legendary brutal basketball workouts, and his soft and playful side. And with the help of some good food and drink, Lucas added 35 pounds to his frame.

“(Haskins) patted me on the stomach and said, ‘You wanna play me, you gotta drink a lot of beer,’” Lucas says.

Don Haskins offering advise to the director and actors
Don Haskins, right, offered plenty of advice to Josh Lucas, left and Jerry Bruckheimer, middle, on the set of "Glory Road."

--photo by Frank Connor © 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The Glory Road crew began principal filming during the summer of 2004 in Louisiana, where there were plenty of 60s-era structures for backdrops and generous economic incentives for filmmakers.

For the post-game celebration scenes, Disney needed a 1966 NCAA championship trophy. What better, then, to use the actual trophy itself? So the trophy, after being insured for $1 million, was flown from UTEP to the Louisiana set. Beto Lopez, vice president for institutional advancement at UTEP, accompanied the trophy and brought it back home unscathed.

In the fall of 2004, the UTEP community and all of El Paso fell under Hollywood’s spell when many of the Glory Road cast, including Lucas, Derek Luke (guard Bobby Joe Hill) and Emily Deschanel (Haskins’ wife, Mary) arrived in the Sun City to shoot some exterior scenes.

Sunny Downtown El Paso was transformed into rainy Seattle for scene with Josh Lucas and Red West (Texas Western trainer Ross Moore) outside the Gateway Hotel. Asarco became street basketball court somewhere in the inner city.

At UTEP, the pavement of the infamous Cardiac Hill got a coating of powdery dirt and gravel for a retro look in front of Graham Hall.

When director James Gartner called “Action!” UTEP went back in time.

Pulling a U-Haul with a ‘60s station wagon, Lucas’ Haskins drove up to Graham Hall with his family. Assistant coach Moe Iba (Evan Jones) greeted them at the stoop, dressed in narrow-legged pants and a sport coat, capped off with a skinny tie and black-rimmed glasses.

In the background, extras playing students milled about, clothed in conservative plaids, grays and browns. The men wore their hair short and neat, with a shiny Brylcreem (“a little dab’ll do ya!”) look. Women wore ponytails and puffy, hair sprayed ‘dos.

There’s a certain richness of color in “Glory Road,” be it from the old buildings, the retro clothes or desert palette, and it adds to its appeal as a 60s period piece. The deep browns of the painted walls, the golden glow of the parquet basketball courts have a Kodachrome saturation reminiscent of the classic March 28, 1966 Sports Illustrated cover photo showing Texas Western’s Harry Flournoy grabbing a rebound from Kentucky’s Pat Riley.

“We wanted to give it a look that was a little nostalgic … a look from the past without it being too contrived,” says director James Gartner.

Extra's on set dressed in 1960's clothing
The clock turned back at UTEP for several scenes filmed on campus for "Glory Road."

--photo by J.R. Hernandez/UTEP University Communications

Gartner said he enjoyed capturing the unique look of the El Paso southwest, with its rugged, multi-hued mountains and never-ending, cactus-studded deserts.

He chuckled when he recalled a scene of Haskins’ new players traveling by bus through remote West Texas.

“They are showing up to an area that was like a different planet for them, because they are from New York,” Gartner says. “One of them says, ‘It looks like we are on the moon.’”

Haskins says he is very pleased with the product Disney and Bruckheimer have delivered.

At a recent gathering of the 1966 champions in the Memorial Gym building for filming of the movie’s DVD content, Haskins gathered his players and Gartner together in a huddle.

“I think we were all lucky that we were smart enough to choose Disney,” Haskins said. Turning to Gartner, he said, “We got a heck of a guy.”

James Gartner, left, and Josh Lucas on the set
"Glory Road" director James Gartner, left, and Josh Lucas on the set.

--photo by Frank Connor © 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Through the friendship and trust Gartner developed with Haskins, he was able to convince the coach to make a cameo appearance in the film.

“I fought that pretty hard. I’m not an actor,” Haskins says.

Nevertheless, Haskins finally agreed to don a pair of overalls to play an attendant of a gas station near Fabens, Texas.

When Josh Lucas pulls up for gas, the real Haskins asks the Hollywood Haskins if he wants his tank filled up. Though a simple one-line scene, it was tiring work because Gartner needed several takes to get things perfect. Haskins was glad when it was all over.

But, later he received a $699 check from Disney for his acting debut.

Haskins did the math and realized he was being “paid about $200 a word.” Chuckling, he says that the next time he spoke with the Disney folks, he told them: “I’d be happy to do anything with the movie.”

--David Peregrino