"Fake 23 Blast with a Backside George Reverse, you got that?" T.C. Williams Titans head coach Herman Boone relayed to his team. "Fake 23 Blast with a Backside George Reverse like your life depended upon it."
Perfection was what Coach Boone demanded, and that's exactly what he got.
"Remember The Titans" chronicled the true story of the T.C. Williams High School football team. The 1971 season brought with it a set of challenges that out-weighed any in-game strategy shift you could imagine: The three public schools in Alexandria, Virginia, were integrated in 1965 (not 1971, as the film depicts) and fueled racial tensions between the town's white and Black communities at the tail-end of the Civil Rights Movement.
Tension still exists today: The Alexandria City School Board renamed T.C. Williams High School in 2021. The building was originally named after Thomas Chambliss Williams, the school system's superintendent from the mid-1930s until 1963. Williams did not want schools desegregating and believed that "black and white students learned differently."
The 1971 high school football season showed what unity can accomplish.
Powered by nine shutout victories, T.C. Williams finished (spoiler alert) with a perfect 13-0 record and won the Virginia AAA state championship; The Titans ranked as the No. 2 high school football team in America. Though the film's climax was a made-for-Hollywood final play to win the title over George C. Marshall High School, reality was slightly different — T.C. Williams beat Marshall in similar fashion during a mid-season matchup, but they rolled over Andrew Lewis High School, 27-0, in the 1971 state championship.
Remember The Titans Official Trailer
Directed by Boaz Yakin, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman and written by Gregory Allen Howard, the Walt Disney Pictures production grossed $136.7 million worldwide at the box office on a $30 million budget. It's considered by many to be one of the greatest sports movies of all time.
In my opinion, it is by far the greatest. There is no close second.
Originally released on September 29, 2000, the iconic football movie turned 20 years old in 2020. (Welp, guess I'm officially old.) While the year was marred by the global coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 outbreak, rest assured that I did't mind being stuck at home watching the Titans overcome the odds and achieve perfection.
But more than 20 years later, where is the star-studded cast?
Remember The Titans Cast: Then and Now
Denzel Washington (Herman Boone)
As head coach Herman Boone, Washington delivered an all-time performance. From training camp at Gettysburg College to the state title game, his character drove the action and brought the best out of the team.
Already with an Academy Award on his mantle as Best Supporting Actor in "Glory" (1990), Washington's award-winning career after this movie included "The Hurricane" (1999), "John Q." (2002), "Man on Fire" (2004), "American Gangster" (2007), "The Equalizer" (2014), and "Fences" (2016). His IMDB profile is awe-inspiring.
"Training Day" (2002) won Denzel Washington the Oscar for Best Actor.
The real Herman Boone coached T.C. Williams until 1979. He became a public speaker later in life. Sadly, he passed away in December 2019 of lung cancer. He was 84.
Will Patton (Bill Yoast)
A Hall-of-Fame snub hung overtop Bill Yoast, but as defensive coordinator and assistant coach, T.C. Williams would not have accomplished what they did in 1971. Will Patton's portrayal was spot-on alongside Washington.
Patton acted in dozens of films before 2000's football phenomenon, including "No Way Out" (1987), "The Client" (1994), "The Postman" (1997), "Armageddon" (1998) and "Gone in 60 Seconds" (2000). He went on to roles in "The Mothman Prophecies" (2002) and "The Fourth Kind" (2009), among many other films. He also had long television roles in CBS' "The Agency" and TNT's "Falling Skies."
Coach Bill Yoast worked at T.C. Williams until 1996. The Alabama native and Army Air Corps member died in March 2019 at age 94.
Ryan Hurst (Gerry Bertier)
The Titans' captain and All-American linebacker helped heal the fracture between the white and Black players, and Ryan Hurst showcased the emotional ties to that struggle perfectly.
Following his role in "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), Hurst's portrayal of Gerry Bertier brought numerous film and television opportunities that included "We Were Soldiers" (2002), "CSI: Miami" (2006), "Bates Motel" (2016-17) and "The Walking Dead" (2019).
He's perhaps best known as Harry "Opie" Winston in 54 episodes of FX's "Sons of Anarchy."
"Remember The Titans" opened on Gerry Bertier's funeral in 1981. Though the film showed Bertier being injured before the state championship, he was actually hurt after the game and paralyzed from the waist down. Bertier won a gold medal in the shot put in the Paralympics, and the gym at T.C. Williams now bears his name.
Wood Harris (Julius Campbell)
Gerry Bertier was "left side," and Julius Campbell was "strong side."
Harris' breakout role as "Big Ju," which won multiple honors including his first NAACP Image Award, brought a two-decade-long career that's still going strong. He starred in "Paid In Full" (2002), "The Heart Specialist" (2006), "Dredd" (2012), "Marvel's Ant-Man" (2015), and played Tony "Little Duke" Evers in both "Creed" and "Creed II."
Need a lesson on great acting? Watch HBO's "The Wire," where Harris leads the way as drug kingpin Avon Barksdale.
Julius Campbell played football at Ferrum Junior College after high school. He died of organ failure in January 2019 at age 65.
Donald Faison (Petey Jones)
Petey Jones did whatever it took to get on the field, and Faison's energy resonated with the hearts of so many.
Faison acted in numerous coming-of-age films around this time, including "Clueless" (1995), "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), "Can't Hardly Wait" (1998) and "Big Fat Liar" (2002). Movie roles from "Pitch Perfect" (2012) to "Kick-Ass 2" (2013) followed, as well as dozens of television roles and voice-over opportunities.
All 179 episodes that Faison portrayed Christopher Turk in "Scrubs" will require your immediate attention if you haven't watched the award-winning comedy series.
Craig Kirkwood (Jerry "Rev" Harris)
Rev Harris was T.C. Williams' star quarterback before going down with injury. Still, Kirkwood's presence and climactic return added yet another element to this amazing film.
After "Remember The Titans," Kirkwood only acted in supporting roles until around 2006. He retired from acting and graduated from Loyola Law School in 2008, later passing the California Bar Exam. Kirkwood worked as a deputy public defender for 12 years and is now a senior associate of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, per his LinkedIn account.
Ethan Suplee (Louie Lastik)
Want to talk about a transformation? Look no further than lovable football player Louie Lastik and the man who played him, Ethan Suplee.
It's been hard to miss Suplee over the years with roles in "American History X" (1998), "Road Trip" (2000), "Blow" (2001), "The Butterfly Effect" (2004), "Clerks II" (2006), "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013) and "Deepwater Horizon" (2016). He also co-starred in 96 episodes of the NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl."
Today, he hosts the "American Glutton" podcast, which interviews health and fitness experts and centers around Suplee's incredible journey to lose over 200 pounds.
Ryan Gosling (Alan Bosley)
T.C. Williams didn't need Alan at cornerback for most of the football film. That didn't stop Ryan Gosling from being the film's breakout cast member.
Though already a child actor from "The Mickey Mouse Club" and "Young Hercules," "Remember The Titans" put Gosling on the map, and he's been a global film icon ever since.
"The Believer" (2001), "The Notebook" (2004), "Half Nelson" (2006), "Fracture" (2007), "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (2011), "Drive" (2011), "The Big Short" (2015), "La La Land" (2016), "Blade Runner 2049" (2017) and "First Man" (2018) figure to land Gosling on many award show stages before his career is over.
Burgess Jenkins (Ray Budds)
I think we can agree tight end Ray Budds was portrayed in the film as a huge jerk. Burgess Jenkins was perfectly cast to fuel tensions as Gerry Bertier's best friend.
Jenkins appeared in several other films, like portraying religious leader John Wesley in an award-winning biopic, but he made his living on television. Jenkins acted in "Dawson's Creek," "One Tree Hill," "Nashville" and most notably appeared on 112 episodes of the daytime drama "The Young and the Restless."
Jenkins is happily married to a breast cancer survivor and loves highlighting his family on Instagram.
Kip Pardue (Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass)
Sunshine saved the Titans' season, and Kip Pardue's California-blonde hair couldn't have been casted better. (He's originally from Atlanta, but we'll let it slide.)
Pardue was originally recruited by Yale University to play college football, but chose to become a model for brands like Armani and Polo. "Remember The Titans" was his big break, which brought acting roles like "The Rules of Attraction" (2002), "Thirteen" (2003) and in Netflix's "Mad Men," as well as a host of low-budget productions and one-off TV show appearances.
In 2019, he was found guilty of sexually harassing actress Sarah Scott and fined $6,000 by SAG-AFTRA.
Hayden Panettiere (Sheryl Yoast)
Much like Gosling, Panettiere rode her strong performance as the rambunctious and motivating Sheryl Yoast into a two-decade-strong career.
She appeared in "Raising Helen" (2004), "Racing Stripes" (2005), "Ice Princess" (2005), "I Love You, Beth Cooper" (2009), "Scream 4" (2011) and "Custody" (2016). Television appearances in "Guiding Light, Law & Order: SVU" and "Heroes" also followed. She earned two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress after her role in the ABC/CMT series "Nashville."
Panettiere shares a daughter with former world heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, though they are no longer together romantically.
Nicole Ari Parker (Carol Boone)
Opposite Denzel Washington, Parker's role was small, yet powerful.
Though she already had a long list of acting roles, Parker is still active today and boasts a resume that includes "Brown Sugar" (2002), "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" (2008), "Black Dynamite" (2009) and "Almost Christmas" (2016). She received five NAACP Image Award nominations for her work in the Showtime series "Soul Food," and recently had a recurring role in Fox's "Empire."
Kate Bosworth (Emma Hoyt)
Though largely unknown at the time, Bosworth, who played Gerry Bertier's girlfriend, landed her breakout role in 2002's "Blue Crush." She went on to star in "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!" (2004), "Superman Returns" (2006), "21" (2008), "Straw Dogs" (2011) and "Still Alice" (2014).
In 2018, Bosworth was named one of PEOPLE's 25 Women Changing the World for her work with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) to rehabilitate human trafficking survivors around the globe.
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This post was originally published on August 5, 2020.
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