- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

When Bill Yoast heard that Hollywood would tell how he and fellow coach Herman Boone led T.C. Williams High School's football team to the state championship in 1971, he feared the melodramatic worst.
Mr. Yoast, who is white, feared the film would depict him as a racist cardboard character who improbably sees the light by the final reel. Instead, Hollywood did right by Mr. Yoast with "Remember the Titans" much as he and his team did right by Alexandria, Va., almost 30 years ago.
The movie depicts how a football team helped assuage the racial wounds that redistricting brought when black and white students came together under one roof at T.C. Williams.
The film's District of Columbia premiere was Tuesday night at the Uptown Theater in Northwest. The gala brought out Denzel Washington, who stars as Mr. Boone, along with others in the movie's cast, plus first film fan President Clinton. The T.C. Williams High School band even treated Mr. Clinton to its rendition of "Hail to the Chief" when he ducked into the theater. "Remember the Titans" opens today in wide release.
"It brings back the feelings, not just the memories," Mr. Yoast said. "At the time, we were concerned with getting together. We knew we had the talent, but we weren't sure we had the chemistry.
"We came together just like the film did."
He helped ensure an honest account by working closely with Will Patton, the actor who portrays him.
"He knew what I was thinking [at the time]," Mr. Yoast said of his on-screen persona.
Mr. Patton said he spent as much time with the former assistant coach as possible to make sure he nailed the part. He even listened to Mr. Yoast on tape before leaving his trailer each day to film scenes.
"I just wanted to do right by him," Mr. Patton said.
In addition to a celebrity coterie that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actress Lynda Carter and former Georgetown basketball head coach John Thompson, members of the T.C. Williams championship team attended the premiere.
"I can see it 20 more times," said Mr. Boone, who is black. "It captured something I've always believed in: Treat your fellow man with respect … respect his ideas, even if you don't agree with them. I taught that to everyone around."
Though minor details were changed, director Boaz Yakin and crew authentically replicated the atmosphere of those uncertain times.
"If it were not realistic, I would have spoken out," said Mr. Boone, a constant presence on the set. True to form, he constantly teased Mr. Washington that the star wasn't handsome enough to portray him on film.
"It's my private joke with Denzel," he said, his coy grin widening.
But he turned serious when describing what it meant for the Oscar winner to stand in for him on screen.
"I couldn't find a better human being on earth," Mr. Boone said, "and that's not just because he's an actor. He has all of my values.
"I found myself mimicking Denzel's words on the screen."
The high school band played Aretha Franklin's "Respect" during the premiere while the film's key players strolled across the hastily assembled red carpet.
Band members' energy level jumped when Mr. Washington emerged from his limousine. The female band members held their hands to their faces or shook them by their sides in disbelief as the suave star strode toward them, his smile as broad as theirs.
Mr. Washington, swathed in a crisp black suit and cobalt blue shirt, worked the crowd like a presidential candidate, swapping hugs and snippets of chatter with his breathless admirers.
The actor said the last kind of role he wanted to tackle following last year's "The Hurricane" was that of another real figure.
Then he met Mr. Boone.
"That's when I was turned around," Mr. Washington said. "I told him, 'I'm not going to imitate you.' It's more about capturing the spirit of what he stood for."
The role of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter led the actor through a torturous tale of unjust imprisonment. Working on "Titans" put him in touch with a pair of coaches who often joked and jostled their way through an inflammatory time in the nation's racial history.
"They're like a tag team," Mr. Washington said of the coaches' cordial camaraderie. But their laughter camouflaged a deep friendship and a shared faith in their fellow man. "They're real heroes. These are real people who affected their community."
One of those directly affected was William Roseboro, outside linebacker for the 1971 squad. He remembers the uncertainty that swirled around his hometown during the early 1970s.
"There was chaos at first, when they started busing … riots started breaking out," said Mr. Roseboro, who still lives in Alexandria. "You had to write 'soul brother' on your car, or you got rocked.
"Once the team started winning, people started concentrating on the team."
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, known for such bombastic flicks as 1998's "Armageddon," said the film gives the younger generation a much needed glimpse at the past.
"Kids don't know the history of integration," Mr. Bruckheimer said. "It's good for kids to know there was prejudice and that things changed."
The film also celebrates the enduring work of Mr. Boone and Mr. Yoast.
"A lot of these [students] went on to Ivy League schools," Mr. Bruckheimer said. "It's because of these coaches."

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