- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

Uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer swears the most “Hollywood” scenes in his new reality-based drama “Glory Road” actually happened. And who knows better about slick, sappy Hollywood moments than Mr. Bruckheimer?

He’s been stringing them together so long it’s hard to recall a time when his thumbprints weren’t all over the box office charts.

“Glory Road” chronicles the barrier-breaking Texas Western basketball team that won the NCAA championship in 1966 with an all-black starting squad. Up until then, teams featured one or two black players at best, never more.

It’s an underdog story tailor-made for the movies, and Mr. Bruckheimer’s film honors every last drop of sweat the athletes shed righting societal wrongs.

The tale almost eluded the man behind popcorn features like “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

Pat Riley, who played for the losing Kentucky team, “told me about it, but the rights were tied up with the players,” Mr. Bruckheimer says. ESPN hoped to make a made-for-cable film from the story, but eventually he snagged the rights for his production company.

It’s an apt project for Mr. Bruckheimer, who also produced the rah-rah “Remember the Titans,” another racially charged sports drama. “These players and this coach should be remembered, and there’s nothing like film to help that,” he says.

The socially conscious sentiments didn’t surface during his formative years, when he and ex-partner Don Simpson all but commandeered the modern blockbuster with “Top Gun,” “Flashdance” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” Today, the films seem like as much a part of the 1980s as leg warmers and turned up collars.

He eventually split from the hard-partying Mr. Simpson, who died of heart failure shortly thereafter in January of 1996, but Mr. Bruckheimer’s Midas touch continued to sparkle in crowd pleasers like “Con Air,” “Enemy of the State” and “Black Hawk Down.”

Critics, on the other hand, were, for the most part, disdainful of his movies over the years.

“It always affects you,” says Mr. Bruckheimer, who grew up in a tiny home in Detroit. “But if I listened to what they tell me I should do, I’d be living in a small apartment in West Hollywood.”

Mr. Bruckheimer expanded his media empire in 2000 with the television detective show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

Some might question why a handsomely paid film producer would bother with television, but Mr. Bruckheimer saw a chance to buff his image — and tell longer stories.

“I’d been this blockbuster producer working with huge budgets, but I could do something for four million bucks consistently, not just a one-shot,” he says. Motion picture producers are sometimes seen as “second-class citizens — they sell a project, then they move on to something else.”

Envy also played a part in expanding his entertainment empire.

“I’d watch superproducers like [Steven] Bochco,” he recalls, “and think, ‘I’d love to have the chance to do that kind of work.’ ”

He suffered a rare defeat earlier this year when his drama series “Just Legal” got yanked from the WB after four airings.

No matter, since he has three or four more shows already in the works.

That’s in addition to the nine he has on the air now.

“I read everything, I watch everything,” he says of his stable of shows.

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