Bright spot lights. Red Carpet. Fabulously dressed celebrities. Paparazzi. It was a sight common to Hollywood, but this was Connecticut Avenue. Actors, film executives and former football players gathered at the Cineplex Odeon near Cleveland Park, for the premiere of Remember the Titans (Disney). The big names from Hollywood were even paid a surprise visit from another power player who lives in Washington.
The movie is about the 1971 season of the T.C. Williams High School football team. When the school board integrated an all-white high school with an all black high school, racial tensions flared. To add to the mix, the schools are bitter rivals and a new coach, Herman Boone, who is black, is hired out of South Carolina, passing over Bill Yoast, a white coach who is a local hero. Boone, played by Denzel Washington (The Hurricane, The Bone Collector), has a turbulent relationship with Yoast, played by Will Patton (Armageddon, The Client).
The scene at the premiere was frenzied. The entire front of the theater was corralled-off, as security guards, media and public relations people waited for the stars. The red carpet was empty. It was like a media Xanadu.
The names of the newspapers, radio and television stations were printed on signs that faced toward the red carpet. The people in charge were quick to point out the red carpet and remind the press to keep off of it.
Four police officers walked down the red carpet carrying a huge trunk that held the film.
There was a spot among the press stands sectioned-off for T.C. Williams alumni. Mary Lou Smith, who taught some of the football players who are portrayed in the film, was there. When the ex-players, one of whom had attended Smith’s wedding, came up the red carpet, to greet the beeming teacher. The scene seemed more like a high school reunion than a movie premier. The real coach Bill Yoast walked among his former players.
Miss Smith! players shouted at her. It’s great to see you.
Several movie executives from Disney came to the screening. The film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer (The Rock, Armageddon), attended with his wife Linda. He said he hoped people would walk away from the movie feeling good.
Gregory Allen Howard, who wrote the screenplay, said he was proud of the final product, calling it a dream come true.
Will Patton was the first actor to arrive at the event. Yoast said that Patton played his character pretty much as it was in 1971.
Fifteen minutes before the film was scheduled to begin, people began shrieking. Hundreds of female voices pierced the night air.
The man of the hour, Denzel Washington, had arrived.
Washington and his wife made their way down the red carpet. He shook hands and spoke briefly with each member of the press. Washington took time to answer the questions of the reporter of the T.C. Williams student newspaper.
Before he entered the theater, Washington hugged some of the girls in the T.C. Williams marching band and brought a young boy onto the red carpet to pose for pictures with him.
The excitement outside the theater died down for a brief moment after Washington walked in. Then the sound of roaring motorcycles coming down Connecticut Avenue began. It was the presidential motorcade. President Bill Clinton had arrived – fashionably late, of course.
The screaming started up again when Bill Clinton stepped out of his limousine. He waved politely to the press and vanished into the theater. Clinton had not planned on attending the screening, but decided to go when he received a call from Washington.
The party had begun inside and the doors were closed. Again, the red carpet was empty.
Remember the Titans opens Friday, Sept. in theaters nationwide.