Ordinary men with extraordinary stories brought to the silver screen

Ordinary men with extraordinary stories brought to the silver screen – Entertainment

Some people live the type of life that inspires movies.

Here is a group of ordinary men whose extraordinary stories were brought to the silver screen.

The movie Radio was based on the life of James Robert “Radio” Kennedy, who is mentally disabled. Nicknamed Radio because of the way he held an old transistor radio pressed to his ear, Radio was portrayed by Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr.

Radio’s mentoring relationship with a prominent White high school football coach, Harold Jones (played by Ed Harris), at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, SC, is inspirational because their friendship at first divided, but ultimately transformed the small South Carolina town.

Radio began working alongside Jones until Jones left the school in 1998. Now 57, Radio still remains at T.L. Hanna. He has been there for nearly 40 years, serving as the team’s assistant football coach, trainer, manager, cheerleader and one-man halftime show. Radio’s father and brother both share the same unnamed genetic disorder.

Just recently Radio and his family made headlines when their house burned down. Radio lost movie souvenirs, several decades worth of school letters he received from the school sports teams, and countless radios he often received as gifts. The family recently received a check for $115,000 to build a new home.

Antwone Quenton Fisher was determined to tell his story his way. After 41 drafts, Fisher had written the screenplay for Antwone Fisher, the 2002 movie based on his life. It was adapted from his 2001 autobiography, Finding Fish: A Memoir.

Oscar-winner Denzel Washington made his directorial debut with the movie and also starred in it. Actor Derek Luke made his acting debut in the film as Fisher. Born in prison to a 17-year-old mother, Fisher was placed in foster care a few weeks after his birth. He grew up in foster homes. For 14 years he suffered both emotional and physical abuse in the home of one foster family in particular. After graduating from high school, Fisher found himself sleeping on park benches and in alleys until he joined the Navy. He stayed there for 11 years and befriended a Navy psychiatrist who helped him realize his potential.

A former security guard for Sony Pictures, Fisher has won fame as a screenwriter and author. His work includes Rush Hour, Money Talks and Dallas Austin’s upcoming flick Jelly Beans.

Last year moviegoers flocked to the theater to see the movie Drumline. Nick Cannon portrayed the main character, Devon, a cocky teenaged drum phenom in a school marching band who couldn’t read music. The movie is based on the life of Grammy Award-winning music producer-songwriter Dallas Austin, who executive-produced the film and did its Soundtrack.

Austin played snare drum in high school in Columbus and wanted to do a story about his experience as a drummer in his high school marching band. A gifted musician who is adept at playing just about every instrument, Austin first began playing music at the age of 7. Today he still can’t read music; he plays instruments by ear. That hasn’t stopped him in the music industry. He’s the man who wrote TLC hits like Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg, What About Your Friends, Creep, Hat 2 Da Back and Unpretty.

Austin also discovered the singer Monica and helped to shape her early career. He’s worked with Madonna, Boyz II Men, and Stevie Nicks. Austin is currently working with Janet Jackson, Kelis, Gwen Stefani and Shakira. He is working on a second movie, Jelly Beans.

Denzel Washington portrayed football coach Herman Boone in the movie Remember The Titans. The film was based on the true experiences Boone encountered when he took over head-coaching duties of the varsity football team at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA.

When three schools were integrated in 1971 to form the high school, racial tensions ran high. Things only got worse when Boone was named to head the Titans football team, bumping out the local favorite White high school coach, Bill Yoast (played by Will Patton). The two coaches learned to work together and eventually put aside their predjudices and unified their players to form a team who learned to respect each other and to win games.

The team became one of the best in Virginia, winning the state championship. Some of the friendships among the real-life Titan players are just as enduring, and team members maintain a Web site, www.71originaltitans.com. Boone retired from the school in 1998, but not as its football coach. He integrated the golf program and retired as a golf coach.

Carl Maxie Brashear wanted to become the Navy’s first Black diver and nothing was going to stand in his way–not a 7th-grade education, not racism and not even a prosthetic limb that would eventually replace his lower left leg after it was crushed during an accident.

Brashear’s fascinating story was told in the 2000 movie Men of Horror. Cuba Gooding played Brashear. Robert DeNiro played the racist Billy Sunday, a celebrated Master Chief diver who was Brashear’s training officer in the Dive School program.

In real life Brashear says that Billy Sunday wasn’t one person he encountered in the Navy. Sunday was based upon several men from Brashear’s past who worked to keep him from being a diver in the Navy. Brashear lost his left leg in 1966 when a pipe struck his leg. He was expected to leave the military following the accident, but Brashear didn’t. At nearly 40 years old, he worked to prove that he could indeed still be a diver. After a multitude of prolonged tests and diving exercises, he was put back on active duty. He remained on it for 12 years and in 1970 became the first Black U.S. Navy master diver.

Brashear also is the first amputee to earn master-diver certification, later becoming a master chief, the Navy’s highest rank for an enlisted man. Two months ago firefighters in Newport News, VA, named a new, 45-foot fireboat after him.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter had a promising boxing career when he and a friend were arrested in 1967 for a bar shooting that killed three. Carter was freed in 1985 on a writ of habeas corpus after he spent 20 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit. A young Black man, Lesra Martin (played by Vicellous Shannon), and three Canadians worked to free Carter. Carter’s story was told in the 1997 movie The Hurricane.

Martin, at that time an illiterate, learned to eventually read and found Carter’s book, The Sixteenth Round, inspirational. Martin wrote to Carter in prison and the two began a friendship. Martin went on to earn a law degree from Dalhousie Law School. Carter is executive director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted in Toronto, Ontario, Canada The two men remain friends.

The world had never witnessed a Jamaican bobsled team in the Winter Olympics. So when four men from Jamaica-brothers Tal and Chris Stokes, Michael White and Devon Harris–represented the country in the 1988 Winter Olympics, people were in shock. It was a surprise that the sunshine boys left Jamaica to freeze in the bobsled competition.

Their story was told in the 1993 movie Cool Runnings. The team went to the Olympics again in 1992, with two new members. The team also went to the Winter Olympics in 1994 and again in 1998.

The Stokes brothers remained on every team: “My brother was a helicopter pilot. I was sprinter. We had a sense of adventure,” explains Chris of their interest in the sport. In spite of the historic crash, Chris said they didn’t quit because, “We had an obligation to remain and do well.” The history of the teams is told in Chris’s new book, Cool Runnings and Beyond.

Tal currently is the president of the Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation (JBF); Nelson is the vice president of marketing for the JBF.

Joe Louis Clark, a former Army drill instructor-turned high school principal, believes in education, respect, order and discipline. And, he would get it even if it meant strolling the hallways of his school with a baseball bar. Clark’s life was immortalized in the 1989 movie Lean on Me, which starred Morgan Freeman. Clark took over Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ, in 1983. He quickly whipped things into shape.

After two years of Clark’s leadership, the school was declared a model by New Jersey’s governor. Clark also was named one of the nation’s 10 Principal’s of Leadership in 1986. He retired from the school in 1990. Five years later he was appointed director of the Essex County Detention House, a juvenile detention center in Newark, NJ.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group