IT'S TEMPTING TO MAKE KY. A SYMBOL
Rich Copley
Herald-Leader Culture Writer
At the end of the 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Jimmy Stewart's Sen. Ransom Stoddard sets the record straight on an incident from years before by admitting it was not he but his friend, played by John Wayne, who gunned down the baddest bandit in the wild Western town.
A reporter then stuns Ransom by telling him there will be no story because "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Though that's not a philosophy of most journalists today, it is a phrase invoked by numerous screenwriters asked about how they approach writing screenplays based on actual events.
But what if the legend makes you look bad?
That's what has the Big Blue Nation worried as Glory Road gets set to open in theaters nationwide Friday.
The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film recounts the historic 1966 NCAA men's basketball championship game in which a Texas Western team with five black starters defeated Adolph Rupp's all-white Kentucky squad. The game is viewed as a watershed moment in college basketball, opening the door for blacks throughout the country.
Fears are that the movie will stamp in celluloid the impression that Rupp, played in the movie by Jon Voight, and the Kentucky faithful were racists. It's a controversial assessment of the legendary coach that has endured for decades.
Whether or not Rupp was a racist, screenwriters say, painting Kentucky as a sort of symbol of the racism the Texas Western team faced is a tempting place for a writer to go.
"Every story needs conflict, and sometimes you trump up the conflict," says Charles Pogue, a screenwriter who lives in Georgetown and has The Fly (1986) and Dragonheart (1996) among his credits. "If they have Jon Voight playing Rupp, he is going to have some moments."

Kentucky Educational Television writer and producer Tom Thurman who made the five-hour documentary Great Balls of Fire: Basketball in Kentucky as well as films on directors John Ford and Sam Peckinpah that have been shown nationwide said, "My guess is Adolph Rupp will come across as a cardboard George Wallace stuffed in a brown suit."

Kentucky gets off easy
In the movie, Rupp and the Kentucky players never utter a racial epithet or take any other overtly racist actions. Rupp and his team are essentially the regal, elite basketball Goliath that Texas Western's team of Davids must slay. But there are some moments that could be interpreted as making Rupp and Kentucky symbolic of the racism of the time.
Asbury College film professors Jeff Day and Don Mink, who attended a Thursday night preview screening, were particularly struck by a moment late in the championship when, in the midst of game action, Texas Western star Bobby Joe Hill tumbles off the court and onto Rupp. The moment is frozen on the screen, like a newspaper photo.

The intention of the filmmakers, who were not available for interviews, was not known, but the Asbury professors interpreted the moment as symbolic of a changing of the guard in college basketball, with Rupp representing the old guard.
Overall, Mink and Day thought Kentucky got off easy in the film and that Rupp looked more weak than evil and racist.
"He seemed past his prime," said Mink, pointing to a moment late in the game when Rupp struggles to find something to say to motivate his team.

Day says, "The villain was racism and the culture of the day. It would have been easy, as a writer, to make Kentucky the villain."

How fair is that?
Though filmmakers have dramatic license, and the movie poster bears the reminder "Based on the True Story," screenwriter James L. White who wrote the 2004 Ray Charles biopic, Ray says there is an obligation to stick fairly close to actual events, especially if the story is from recent history.
But, the Mount Sterling native says, screenwriters do need to create moments, "composite characters" to help convey major themes of a story that in real life often played out over years but are compressed in a two-hour movie.
To write a biopic, White says, he and other screenwriters generally do a tremendous amount of reading and interviewing so that even invented scenes and characters convey the essence of the truth.

Glory Road takes some major liberties with the Haskins-Texas Western story. To start with, the film portrays the 1965-66 championship season as Haskins' first at Texas Western. He was actually hired in 1961. The movie depicts Haskins making a conscious decision to play only the blacks on his team in the championship game to make a statement on race. The former coach has said in several recent interviews, however, that he was just fielding his best players and that he didn't comprehend the significance of that victory until several years later.

White and Pogue point out that, in Hollywood, attorneys routinely comb through scripts to find things that might put filmmakers in legal jeopardy, and releases are usually obtained from real people portrayed in a film.
Rupp's family members have told the Herald-Leader they were not consulted for the movie, though Pat Riley, the celebrated NBA coach who was on Rupp's 1966 squad, was a consultant and appears in a reel of comments during the movie's closing credits.
Different times
It's not new that people portrayed in movies are often upset by that representation.
"People always want you to tell their life's story, until you show them what they look like," White says. White, who is black, says that in 1966, institutional racism was alive and well in Kentucky.

Pogue observes, "If it's unflattering or discomforting, it may be closer to the truth than anyone wants to admit."
Brad Riddell, a University of Kentucky graduate and screenwriter for the new DVD hit American Pie: Band Camp, says he has some concerns about how UK will be portrayed, but says that Kentucky fans should realize that that was nearly 40 years ago and things are very different today.
"We have great African-American players and a great African-American coach in Tubby Smith," Riddell says.
Regardless of how UK is portrayed, Thurman points out that the loss to Texas Western is not a moment most Kentucky fans will want to relive.

UK fans may wonder why a positive movie wasn't written on UK basketball. The screenwriters say that the Wildcats' status as a perennial winner works against them in that instance.

Hollywood likes an underdog.
"Look at the Notre Dame football movie Rudy," Riddell says. "It was about the kid that had no business being on that team trying to be part of this legendary team."
Thurman does see a film possibility in the Fabulous Five, Rupp's late 1940s squad that won the NCAA championship, took home the Olympic gold medal and went on to NBA fame.
Even with a UK bias, screenwriters such as Riddell and White admit that the Texas Western story is perfect for the movies.

"I wish I had brought this idea to Jerry Bruckheimer," Riddell says.

When asked what they would tell UK fans worried about how their beloved Cats come across in Glory Road, Mink and Day say they'd remind them that the movie is about the other team.
"This was a global thing," Mink says. "It wasn't about Kentucky. It wasn't about Adolph Rupp. This was a bigger story."

Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217, or (Email Removed).
If you go
Glory Road opens in wide release on Friday. Check listings in Friday's Weekender for details.
On the Web
The official Glory Road site: http:// disney.go.com/disneypictures/ gloryroad.
(1) - Jon Voight plays an aging Adolph Rupp in the movie. (2) - A still from the movie. Josh Lucas, profiled in today's Parade magazine elsewhere in the Herald-Leader, plays Coach Don Haskins. Don Haskins coached Texas Western from 1961-99, retiring with 719 victories.
Copyright (c) 2006 Lexington Herald-Leader
I like how they quote the guy who wrote American Pie: Band Camp just because, at some point, he graduated from UK. I mean, where is Ashley Judd when you need her?
IT'S TEMPTING TO MAKE KY. A SYMBOL

One of my longer scripts has a scene in which a huge madam in a brothel empties an entire tube of KY into the hero's anus before sodomising him with a Big Boy (TM) 18" ***.
I thought that's what the title referred to and agreed that KY certainly needs a higher profile in today's cinema.

-))
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IT'S TEMPTING TO MAKE KY. A SYMBOL

One of my longer scripts has a scene in which a huge madam in a brothel empties an entire tube of KY into the hero's anus before sodomising him with a Big Boy (TM) 18" ***.

It's called "The Aristocrats"!
Alan Brooks

A with an Underwood
A Disney-Torquemada co-production
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IT'S TEMPTING TO MAKE KY. A SYMBOL

One of my longer scripts has a scene in which a huge madam in a brothel empties an entire ... that's what the title referred to and agreed that KY certainly needs a higher profile in today's cinema. :-)) .

So, you write romcoms, eh?
One of my longer scripts has a scene in ... before sodomising him with a Big Boy (TM) 18" ***.

And people say there's too much off topic stuff here..

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another
James M. Barrie
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Fears are that the movie will stamp in celluloid the impression that Rupp, played in the movie by Jon Voight, and the Kentucky faithful were racists. It's a controversial assessment of the legendary coach that has endured for decades.

It's actually not a controversial assessment at all.

The question is really only if Rupp was more racist than your average run-of-the-mill Kentuckian of the period.
I don't think it's entirely fair to judge people from an earlier era by today's standards. Rupp may even have been somewhat progressive on racial issues for his time (although I don't think he was, IIRC) and would look bad by contemporary standards.
But a lot of the big southern universities have really ugly histories of racism, and sports were a part of that. How is anything else possible in the era of the pre-civil-rights south? The excuse thrown around by Rupp's defenders ("if we had black players, other teams wouldn't play us") is embarrassing. If you're a leader and a champion - as Rupp was - and you think something's the right thing to do, you do it.

To me, the notion that Rupp knew what he was doing was wrong and did it anyway is worse than simply accepting that most White Kentuckians who grew up when he did were at least somewhat racist, and given the choice between winning with white players and winning with an integrated team (they way he would have seen his choice before the Texas Western game) he picked the former.
And if other teams want to duck you, you just beat all the teams that will play you. That's what Texas Western did, after all. You can't duck somebody in the NCAA finals.
-Ron
So, you write romcoms, eh?

I write black comedy. But with romance thrown in as well.

The one with the KY scene (my feature length "Fruit & Veg") is very romantic. :-)
the rest of it is, just not that scene.
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