Hoosiers: Basketball Movie Bliss

By: Nathan Chandler

Say "Hoosiers" 10 times fast. What's a "hoosier," anyway?

For more than 150 years, the word "Hoosiers" has been embraced by Indiana natives as an all-encompassing term for locals. No one has a definitive story for the word's origins or even its exact meaning, but it is often used with pride.

The movie "Hoosiers" first played in theaters decades ago. When was it released?

The film definitely falls into the category of "80s classics." It was released in 1986 to great fanfare.

Gene Hackman plays the lead character, a down-on-his-luck basketball coach. What's his name?

Hackman plays Norman Dale, a character who is driven to succeed but has many personal failings that have cost him greatly in life.

Norman Dale was a successful college basketball coach. Then he wound up in tiny Hickory, Indiana. What caused his fall from grace?

Dale's violent nature took hold of him, and he struck one of his college players. The incident blacklisted him from coaching major teams and left him as the head coach of a small high school squad.

"Hoosiers" is based closely on a true story.

The story is inspired (loosely) by Milan High School, which in 1954 became the smallest single-class team ever to win the Indiana state basketball championship. The school's entire enrollment was only about 160 students.

When Dale begins coaching the small team, he infuriates the entire town by doing what?

Dale decides to close practices to the public. In a small town where people loved to attend practices, his decision ignited a furious response.

Who plays the character named Shooter Fletch?

Dennis Hopper, ever the loose cannon, plays Shooter Fletch, the former star athlete turned town drunk. His insights help Norman Dale assemble Hickory into a functioning team.

The first cut of the movie was how long?

The first cut of "Hoosiers" was nearly three hours long, and the studio refused to release it to theaters in such a long format. It was eventually trimmed to 114 minutes and sacrificed much of the film's love story.

During the season, how does Dale manage to get himself ejected from numerous games?

Dale is an emotionally unstable man who continues to struggle with his temper. In lashing out at the referees, he finds himself ejected from multiple games.

During one scene, Dennis Hopper staggers drunk onto the floor during a game. He was actually drunk at the time.

Hopper looked drunk but he wasn't. Just before the scene, he spun quickly in circles to make himself dizzy, and the resulting effect really did make him seem intoxicated.

"Hoosiers" is a finely-crafted tale. Who directed the movie?

David Anspaugh was the movie's director. He also has credits for productions such as "Rudy" and "Fresh Horses."

How did Anspaugh and Gene Hackman get along on set?

Hackman was less than awed by Anspaugh, who had never before directed a Hollywood feature. He spent many scenes just trying to get under the director's skin.

Hackman was not the original choice for the part of Norman Dale. Which actor was first picked for the role?

Hackman's performance is so definitive that it's hard to see anyone else as Norman Dale. But Jack Nicholson was actually the first choice. Scheduling conflicts meant that he couldn't accept the role.

Why was Dennis Hopper very leery of playing the part of Shooter?

Hopper had just given up drinking in real life. He was reluctant to jump into a movie in which his character had serious substance abuse problems.

The movie was a box office success. How much did it cost to create the film?

The movie's budget weighed in at around $6 million, and it made plenty of money by grossing nearly $30 million at box offices. It's a popular movie on DVD and streaming, too.

All of the boys on the Hickory basketball team were really from Indiana in real life.

Seven of the eight boys were from Indiana. Their genuine Hooser appeal added a dose of realism to the movie's story.

During filming, Hackman famously said to Dennis Hopper that the movie would do what do his career?

Hackman was notoriously unstable on set, and he was convinced that the movie was going to bomb. He told Hopper that their careers in acting were over.

Norman changes the team's offense to emphasize what aspect of the game?

Norman implements a "four-pass" rule. The players are supposed to pass the ball at least four times before anyone shoots. The young players roll their eyes at Norman's dictatorial approach.

Norman Dale's character was based on which real-life basketball coach?

Bobby Knight is the volatile man who became famous for his red-faced tirades at Indiana. The movie's director attended Indiana and was very familiar with Knight's angry ways.

Barbara Hershey plays Myra Fleener. How does she respond to Norman's appearance in town?

Fleener wants nothing to do with Norman and wants him to stay away from Jimmy Chitwood, the town's best player, who is emotionally troubled.

Myra makes it clear that she wants Norman to stay away from Jimmy, even though Jimmy is the team's best hope. How does Norman respond?

Norman respects Myra's passion for Jimmy's well-being and decides to leave the boy alone. In the end, Myra encourages Jimmy to join the team, and the effects are immediate.

"Hoosiers" was nominated for two Academy Awards. Which actor received a nomination?

Hopper, with his careening, unstable performance as Shooter, was nominated for best actor in a supporting role. He didn't win.

During one hotly contested game, Norman purposely gets himself ejected from the game. Why?

Norman knew Shooter would have to step up sometime, not just for the team, but for himself. Norman purposely gets ejected, forcing Shooter to coach the rest of the game, which Hickory won.

The story takes place in Indiana. Where was the film actually made?

The film shot on location in Indiana. A town named Knightstown stepped into the role of Hickory, and the gym where many scenes were shot still stands.

"Hoosiers" did very well at the box office. It won a single Academy Award.

The film made money and is considered to be one of the best sports flicks ever made. It was nominated for best soundtrack ... but didn't win.

When they were filming scenes for the games, the film's creators struggled to find what?

Even after repeated public pleas, the producers couldn’t persuade people to serve as extras in the grandstands. They finally had to set up a convoluted scheme involving games between actual high school teams to get enough people to show up and cheer.

Maris Valainis played the part of Jimmy, who hits a huge game-winning shot. In real life, Valainis was a poor basketball player.

Valainis couldn't even make his own high school team, but he gained huge fame by making the shot of a lifetime in "Hoosiers." The movie turned out to be his only real big-screen performance.

Several actors had to re-record their lines once shooting was completed. Hackman refused to do the work until which condition was met?

Hackman was sure the movie was going to be terrible, so he insisted on seeing it before redoing some of his lines. In the end, he was floored by how well the movie came together.

The championship game was held in the same facility that hosted the real-life "Hoosiers" game.

The title game was in fact shot in the same building that witnessed the real-life, shocking victory by Milan High School. It is Butler University's Hinkle Fieldhouse.

What was the real-life score of the final game that inspired the movie?

Milan High School beat Muncie Central in a defensive battle, 32 to 30. Just as in the movie, Milan's star player had a terrible game but hit the game-winning jumper as time expired.

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About This Quiz

"Hoosiers" takes the tale of one small-town team and transforms it into an unforgettable story of determination and teamwork. How much do you know about this famous basketball film?

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