CLOSE
YouTube
YouTube

10 Winning Facts About Hoosiers

YouTube
YouTube

Set in 1951 in the fictitious tiny Indiana town of Hickory, Hoosiers (1986) starred Gene Hackman as Norman Dale, a man whose promising career coaching college basketball was forever ruined when he hit one of his players. After spending more than a decade in the Navy, Dale gets a second chance at coaching with the Hickory High School Huskers, where he quickly discovers how important even high school basketball is to the town and to the Hoosier state.

Slowly, Dale manages to win over the town and its former star player, Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis), when his seemingly unusual tactics begin to yield positive results on the court. By changing Jimmy's mind and helping to get the local drunk, Shooter Flatch (Dennis Hopper), on the wagon with the promise of an assistant coach position, Dale also impresses his world-weary colleague, Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey). In honor of the film's 30th anniversary, here are 10 facts you might not have known about the Oscar-nominated sports classic.

1. NORMAN DALE WAS BASED ON BOBBY KNIGHT.

First-time feature film writer Angelo Pizzo and equally-green director David Anspaugh grew up in Indiana and were roommates at Indiana University, so naturally they wanted to make a movie about the state and its love of basketball. But while they had heard and been inspired throughout their lives by the story of the tiny 1954 Milan High team that shocked everybody by winning the state championship, Pizzo discovered they were "too nice" and had "no real conflict," so instead he made the team out of five of his friends from high school, created an assistant coach from scratch, and made Dale with Bobby Knight, Indiana University's longtime—and legendarily volatile—head coach in mind.

“I wondered what would happen if Knight punched a player," Pizzo said. “I utilized Knight’s offensive philosophy: four passes before a shot. I also created an arc for him where he actually listened to a player.” (In real life, Knight was accused of several acts of violence, and eventually dismissed from his position at Indiana for what the school's president described as a "pattern of unacceptable behavior.")

2. JACK NICHOLSON WANTED TO PLAY THE COACH.

After reading the script, Nicholson told Pizzo and Anspaugh, "I have to play this character." However, he was unable to take the role because he was serving as a witness in a lawsuit, which sidelined him for six months. After the film came out, Nicholson said to Anspaugh that the movie and its stars were great, but that it would have been a "megahit" if he been its star.

3. HARRY DEAN STANTON WAS APPROACHED TO PLAY SHOOTER.

Venerable character actor Harry Dean Stanton was offered the role of Shooter, but passed. In 2013 he expressed regret over saying no to the film, and couldn't remember his reasons for declining it. Dennis Hopper was also reluctant to play Shooter, as he had "just stopped drinking," but eventually signed on and earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts.

4. SEVEN OF THE EIGHT PLAYERS WERE FROM INDIANA.

The lone non-Hoosier was David Neidorf, who played Shooter's son Everett. (He auditioned at the Beverly Hills Y.) The rest were picked from an open casting call in Indianapolis for anyone who could play hoops. Estimates on how many people auditioned range from 400 to 800 hopefuls.

The athletes studied 1950s game film and trained and rehearsed for over two months. "We'd spent all our lives learning to play one way, and then we had to start shooting a completely different way," Steve Hollar, who played Rade, said. "No behind-the-back passes, no hand-checking."

5. GENE HACKMAN'S AGENT TRIED TO GET THE DIRECTOR FIRED.

Hackman and Anspaugh clashed throughout most of the production. "Gene had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown," Anspaugh told Vulture. "He gave me my first anxiety attack: One morning I woke up and I couldn’t walk, the room was spinning. I thought every day on the film was going to be my last because Gene’s agent was trying to get me fired."

According to Anspaugh, the only thing that saved his job was the dailies. "The producers said, 'Look, David’s not getting fired,'" the director recalled. "And we showed a half-hour of dailies to Gene’s agent and he saw that what we were making was actually pretty good."

6. HACKMAN TOLD DENNIS HOPPER THAT THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO SINK THEIR CAREERS.

During a happy montage of Hickory winning a string of games, Dale was shown saying something to Shooter on the bench that made Shooter laugh. It wasn't until years later that Anspaugh learned what Hopper was laughing at: Hackman had told him, "Hopper, I hope you’ve invested well, because you and I are never gonna work after this movie. This is a career-ending film for both of us.”

7. HOPPER USED JAMES DEAN AS INSPIRATION.

Hopper had acted alongside James Dean in both Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956). For a scene where he needed to act drunk in the latter film, Dean asked director George Stevens for 30 seconds so that he could spin around to better feel the inebriation. Remembering this, Hopper asked Anspaugh for the same 30 seconds.

There's another connection between Hoosiers and Dean: in 1951, the Marion, Indiana-born actor had played basketball against the Milan High School team.

8. HOPPER FOUGHT TO HAVE A SCENE CUT FROM THE FILM.

In the original script, Shooter leaves rehab to watch the state championship. Hopper, who had just gotten sober, thought it was detrimental to the story. "We sat down over coffee, and he said, 'Guys, I wish I had brought this up earlier. I knew there was something that bothered me about this scene. It doesn’t work. It can’t happen. It would suggest Shooter didn’t take his sobriety seriously. And I know from experience that Shooter made a real commitment, and there’s no way he would leave that hospital,'" Anspaugh recalled. "And Angelo and I had been living with that scene in our heads for years. And we really argued against [cutting] it. And Dennis said, 'No, trust me.' And we trusted him, and he was absolutely right."

9. ORION MADE THE FILMMAKERS CUT ALMOST A FULL HOUR FROM THE FILM.

Anspaugh and Pizzo wanted to release their two-hour-and-48-minute version of the movie. The studio insisted that they needed to cut it down to 114 minutes. Among the many scenes excised was Buddy (Brad Long) asking back on the team and two scenes that developed Norman and Myra's budding romance more. Anspaugh said "the audience really got cheated and robbed" over the cuts.

10. HACKMAN ENDED UP BEING IMPRESSED WITH THE FILM, AND ANSPAUGH.

Hackman insisted on viewing the movie before he agreed to go in to re-record some of his audio. "Angelo and I knew that if he didn't like the movie, he wouldn't show up at the studio to re-record his dialogue," Anspaugh said. "But he showed up. He walked in to the room, took his glasses off, looked me in the eyes, and said, 'How the f*ck did you do that?'"

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Lists
10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
iStock
iStock

by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
iStock

Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios