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Super Bowl Report

4. 'Friday Night Lights'

February 01, 2009|Mark Medina

Sitting four rows behind his cousin at a private screening of "Friday Night Lights," director Peter Berg felt uneasy seeing H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger shift in his seat.

Bissinger, Berg's cousin, wrote the book that chronicled the 1988 Permian High School football team from Odessa, Texas. Any insecurity was thwarted when Bissinger hugged Berg when the lights came up. "There wasn't much to say," Bissinger said. "I truly thought he did a beautiful job."

Bissinger had worried any movie would simplify his narrative that wove together the team's collective and personal anxieties, the social and racial tensions in Odessa and the oil town's unhealthy obsession with the Panthers.

Berg tied together the personal stories involving the unpredictable job security of Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), the career-ending knee injury of tailback James "Boobie" Miles (Derek Luke), the contentious relationship between fullback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) and his father (Tim McGraw) and the increasing confidence of unproven quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black).

All struggle to deal with the pressure in meeting the community's high expectations. "Bissinger captured a very special time in people's lives in a way that didn't diminish that one moment," Berg said. "But he connected it to a larger picture."

. The writer had never imagined a movie based on his book scoring well at the box office and prompting a critically revered television show (which was created by Berg and is in its third season). "He said the movie would never happen, but I wanted to prove him wrong," Berg said.

-- Mark Medina

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