SI: Coach Haskins came up to you before filming started and said, 'If you're going to play me, son, you better start drinking beer.' Sounds like the role of a lifetime.
Lucas: The essence of Haskins is that he's this big, powerful force. During the 1966 season [when Texas Western became the first team to win an NCAA title with five black starters] his players called him the Fat Man. When I first signed on, I was 175 pounds, so I started a massive intake of carbohydrates, particularly beer and starches. We filmed in New Orleans, and one of the best things about filming was gorging myself every day.
SI: How much did you gain?
Lucas: Forty-three pounds. Haskins was angry. He said I'd make him look fat. I asked him how much he weighed. He said he was 213 at the time. I was 218. He said, 'See, you're bigger than I was.'
SI: What was it like playing a man who was often right there on the set with you?
Lucas: At times Haskins and I would disagree about his life. My trailer was filled with 700 photographs from that season. Haskins would come to me and say, 'I never wore a tie.' I'd say, 'But, Don, you stopped wearing a tie once you won a national championship.' So he'd walk out, muttering, 'O.K.'
SI: Pat Riley played for Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA championship game, and he served as a technical consultant on the film. What was it like working with him?
Lucas: My greatest experience was a dinner in Baton Rouge last October with Haskins, Riley, [ USC coach and movie consultant] Tim Floyd, Jon Voight [who plays Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp] and [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer. It was the first time that Haskins and Riley had met since that game. Haskins still lorded over him the fact that he won. The competitive spirit at the table was unlike anything I had ever seen. These coaches had more charisma than any movie star. It really was one of the great nights of my life.
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