- Hoosiers writer/producer Angelo Pizzo never played organized sports in high school. Director David Anspaugh lettered in three sports—football, basketball, and track and field. He was the football quarterback. His track and field event was the pole vault. He was the first pole vaulter at his school to use a fiberglass pole and to vault over the 12-foot mark.
- Anspaugh and Pizzo met at Indiana University, where they were members of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Anspaugh majored in English and secondary education and did his student teaching at Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis. He graduated in 1970. Pizzo majored in political science, graduating in 1971. Both attended graduate school at the University of Southern California in the mid-1970s.
- In 1975, Anspaugh and his wife appeared on a CBS game show called Spin-Off and won $23,000. This helped him pay for grad school.
- Anspaugh worked as a producer on Hill Street Blues before receiving an opportunity to direct that same show. “I’d wanted to [direct] since I was a little kid,” he said. “I felt I was ready, although I don’t know how one ever really knows that. It’s the only art form that there is really no way to prepare for. Acting and theater workshops help, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t come close to simulating the experience of walking on the set the first day and having a cast of 20 and a crew of 60, standing there with coffee and doughnuts, all turn to you and say, ‘What would you like us to do?’ It’s awesome. I had an advantage because I knew the cast and crew. It was almost as if I couldn’t fail. But I wasn’t that assured; I didn’t sleep the night before the first time I stepped on a set as a director. My nightmare was, what if I got out there and realized I couldn’t do it? It wasn’t so much the embarrassment of the moment as the fact that this was what I’d been working for all my life. And yet I had no indication, other than a gut feeling, that I could do it.” (Source: Bettelou Peterson. “Hill Street, Miami Vice ‘too good for their own good’?” KNT News Service, May 31, 1985.)
- Anspaugh’s favorite directors include Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, John Ford, Preston Sturges, Woody Allen, Robert Redford, and Elia Kazan.
- Hoosiers was inspired in part by Indiana’s state-champion 1954 Milan Indians. Two other states had similar stories. In 1952, Illinois’ Alden-Hebron High School, enrollment 98, defeated Quincy High School, enrollment 1,035, 64–59 in overtime, to win the one-class state tournament. And in 1960, the Flying Dutchmen of Edgerton, Minnesota, population 961, captured the state title. They were the smallest school ever to do so. Edgerton defeated several big-city schools in the one-class tournament and finished the season with a perfect record.
- The real winner of the 1952 Indiana state basketball title was Muncie Central, who defeated Indianapolis Arsenal Technical 68–49. They had won state three times previously, including the preceding year. Currently Muncie Central holds the record for the most boys’ basketball championships, at eight.
- The Huskers’ state-finals opponent is the South Bend Central Bears. In real life, the Bears won the state championship in 1953 (under first-year coach Elmer McCall) and 1957 (in an undefeated season).
- The regional game was filmed at the old Lebanon High School gym, built in 1931 and used until 1968. Lebanon was home to legendary high school player Rick Mount, who scored 2,595 points in his career, the fifth-highest in state history. He once scored 57 points in one game. Mount was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1966. That same year, he became the first high schooler to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Mount went on to play for Purdue and in the ABA.
- At the first basketball practice, an angry George threatens to send Norman up the Monon Line. He is referring to a railroad that operated almost entirely in Indiana from 1897 to 1956. It had seven sections: Chicago to Lafayette, Monon to Indianapolis, Michigan City to Monon, Lafayette to Bloomington, Bloomington to New Albany, Wallace Junction to the Midland coal fields, and Orleans to French Lick. Much of the line has been abandoned. In Indianapolis and its northern suburbs, the abandoned line was paved and transformed into a walking/running/biking/skating path known as the Monon Trail.
- In the scene where Norman dunks Shooter in the sink, Norman exclaims, “After what Jimmy did, it would take the Indiana National Guard to get me out of here.” The filming location of Nineveh was located right next to Camp Atterbury, a training base for the Indiana National Guard.
- In accordance with a note in the script, the back of the team bus is painted with the phrase “In case of rapture bus will have no driver.”
- The basketball floor in the Huskers’ home gym is 10 feet shorter than a modern high school court.
- Downtown Hickory contains the following establishments: Alexander’s Furniture; Wampner’s Feed, Seed and Farm Supply; Rooster’s Barber Shop; Dr. H.D. Kindell; volunteer fire department; Tri-County Telephone Company; Martha’s Fashions; post office; Flynn’s Bar and Grill; Fiddler’s Grocery Store; Wampner’s Garage; Boone Quality Hardware and Dry Goods; town hall; Hook’s Drugs; Kunkel’s Plumbing, Heating, and Small Engine Repairs; Linda’s Hickory Tree (diner).
Diagram of downtown Hickory
|Original List of Opposing Teams
||Revised List of Opposing Teams
||Final List of Opposing Teams
||Montage: Holland, Oolitic, Terhune, Bloomington (scoreboard only), Decatur (scoreboard only), unknown opponent
|Cross Plains (sectional)
||Montage: Unknown opponent, Franklin, Birdseye
|Deer Lick (sectional)
|North Vernon (regional)
||Evansville Bosse (regional)
|New Albany (regional)
||New Albany (regional)
|Gary Roosevelt (state)
||South Bend Central (state)
||South Bend Central (state)
- Team colors:
- Huskers: maroon and gold
- Oolitic: purple and light gray
- Cedar Knob: kelly green and gold
- Verdi: orange and royal blue
- Lyons: red and black
- Dugger: maroon and white
- Terhune: navy blue and cream
- Linton: navy blue and orange
- South Bend: royal blue and white
- Some teams are seen only briefly:
- Holland: dark green and white
- Franklin: gold and purple
- Birdseye: orange and white
- Norman’s 1939 Ithaca State team: green and plum (seen in a black-and-white photo)
- Other uniforms were made for teams that didn’t end up in the movie:
- Bloomington: purple and white
- Decatur: blue and gold
- Paragon: black and old gold
- Bosse: gray, red, and white
- Madison: green and white
- Panthers (unknown school): red and black
- Hickory Husker Steve Hollar hates his character’s name, Rade. It reminds him of the bug spray RAID. And, he notes, many viewers of the movie think his character’s name is Ray. (Source: Eric Bernsee. “‘Hoosiers’ a part of Hollar’s life, even after 25 years.” Greencastle (IN) Banner-Graphic, December 1, 2011.)
- Hollar was the only Husker who played on a state-championship team in high school—the 1984 Warsaw Tigers.
- Husker Kent Poole (Merle) played in a 1982 regional tournament game reminiscent of Milan’s 1954 state championship game. “When [Western Boone] got to the regional, we were up against bigger teams sizewise,” Poole said, “and our coach (Howard Leedy) came up with a delay-type offense that relied on backcuts and backdoors. In the championship game of the regional, Clinton Prairie just sagged back in and wouldn’t let us have a backcut. So the first quarter was scoreless. At halftime, we led 6–4. I stood out at midcourt, holding the ball. People say, ‘That has to be boring.’ But as a player, it was one of the most enjoyable games I ever played in. I’ll bet they stopped the game three times because the Clinton Prairie fans were … throwing anything from nuts to bolts to quarters out there.” In the end, WeBo topped Clinton Prairie 27–24. (Source: Bob Hammel. Hoosiers Classified: Indiana’s Love Affair with One-Class Basketball. Indianapolis: Masters Press, 1997, 124.)
- Supporting actor Chelcie Ross (George) said of the Huskers, “They were all intelligent, unpretentious, charming, and real. I liked them and I trusted them.”
- Hoosiers soundtrack composer Jerry Goldsmith said of writer/producer Pizzo and director Anspaugh, “They have a very symbiotic relationship. Together, they make sensitive pictures about ordinary people who have extraordinary moments.” (Source: David Davis. “Kicked! How the IU grads who created Hoosiers and Rudy got beaten in The Game of Their Lives.” Indianapolis Monthly, April 2005, 249.)
- Many movie critics acknowledge enjoying the film despite its flaws. A. O. Scott of the New York Times dubbed Hoosiers “formulaic and full of clichés” but gave it an overall positive review. In Newsweek, David Ansen called Hoosiers “genuinely stirring, well crafted, and acted with commitment,” said it was made with “great care,” and remarked that “director David Anspaugh gets your heart racing in the climactic games.” But he also wrote that “Angelo Pizzo’s script only ventures down heavily trafficked roads, and its destination is as inevitable as a sunrise.” He concluded, “…how many times do we need to see this story? Depending on your answer, you’ll find ‘Hoosiers’ a rousing, heartwarming experience or utterly superfluous. Or both at once.”
- Director David Anspaugh believes a film director needs to be both physically and mentally strong. “I’m not the kind of director who sits in a chair,” he said. “I’m rarely off my feet. It’s a real physical grind, making a movie. … [you also need] the emotional strength to get through something like this. … With Hoosiers, we had everything thrown at us. Everything conceivable, every obstacle thrown at us, from weather to actors to money to losing locations. It was like some sort of bizarre hell week that we were going through for two months.” He explained how directing TV episodes helped prepare him for Hoosiers: “By the time I was ready to start Hoosiers, I had directed, between Hill Street [Blues], St. Elsewhere, and Miami Vice, 22 hours of the toughest television that there ever was, or maybe ever will be. Without that, I never could have made Hoosiers.” (Source: IU Cinema podcast, April 8, 2011.)
- Screenwriter Angelo Pizzo long aspired to direct a feature film, and he reached that goal in the spring of 2014. He believes that, to be a successful director, “You have to have a vision of what you want, you have to know what the movie is in your head, and you have to have the ability to communicate with a lot of different types of personalities to manifest that vision. You have to be able to make decisions quickly, because you’ll be faced with a thousand every day. You have to be an innate, gifted storyteller. And you have to know how to tell that story through images, through the camera, through behavior, through action, not just dialog. And the last thing is, you have to be able to communicate with a different species altogether: actors.” (Source: “A Place for Film”: The IU Cinema podcast, episode 28, April 8, 2011.)
- When Hoosiers was released, in some towns a ticket to a matinee showing cost $2.
- The post office window in New Richmond still reads “Hickory, Ind.”
- Indiana’s final one-class basketball tournament was played in 1997. After that, the tourney was broken into four classes based on school enrollment.
- Barbara Hershey auditioned but wasn’t chosen for the role of Elaine Robinson in The Graduate (1967). Gene Hackman was initially cast as Elaine’s dad. During the second week of rehearsals, director Mike Nichols fired Hackman, concluding that the 37-year-old actor was simply too young to be believable as the father of a college student.
- Another well-known sports-themed movie from the same era as Hoosiers, Chariots of Fire (1981), about Olympic-hopeful runners, has many things in common with Hoosiers:
- Chariots was a personal project for its creators. They felt the story represented their heritage and values that were important to them.
- Chariots was set in the past and inspired by true events, although screenwriter Colin Welland changed some facts. For example, he felt the story of Eric Liddell wasn’t dramatic enough. So he invented the plot point that Liddell’s sister was opposed to all the time and effort Liddell spent in training and at races. Also, in real life, Liddell found out weeks in advance, not days, that his race in the Olympics would be run on a Sunday. So he and his coach had a sufficient amount of time to figure out a solution for Liddell, who was opposed to running on the Sabbath.
- Chariots was the first feature film for director Hugh Hudson.
- The filmmakers had trouble raising money for the project. A potential financier offered to put up the necessary funds if Chariots could be made as a TV movie.
- The filmmakers had to contend with a small budget and a short schedule that involved many different shooting locations.
- The story includes a female character who initially is unsupportive of her brother’s passion for running. She disapproves of all the time he spends in training and doesn’t understand the importance of the sport in his life, telling him that other things matter more. Eventually she changes her attitude.
- Young unknowns were cast as the athletes, and veteran actors were chosen for the other roles. The youthful actors had to undergo athletic instruction to become convincing 1920s-era runners.
- The filmmakers were worried when it looked as though no one would show up for filming at the Olympic stadium. To encourage attendance, they publicized the fact that prizes would be given away.
- The soundtrack used synthesizers to create a more modern feel.
- Like Hoosiers, Chariots received Academy Award nominations. (Unlike Hoosiers, Chariots ended up winning four Oscars.)
- Despite initially being a low-key project, Chariots went on to (possibly unexpected) international success.
- Chariots ended up being the high point in the careers of its writer and director.