The film is based on the H.G. Bissinger
book that is heralded as one of the five greatest sports stories
of all time by Sports Illustrated. The story follows the team
from Odessa, Texas under extreme pressure from the community
to prolong the schools’ winning reputation. Each week 20,000
fans pack Ratliff Stadium—the largest high school football
field in the country—and the town literally shuts down
while everybody watches the game.
Billy Bob Thornton plays Coach Gary Gaines, a dedicated coach
who is under enormous pressure from school officials and community
members to bring the state championship home. The movie also
focuses on six seniors and the life lessons they learn as they
attempt to achieve success on the gridiron and earn college
scholarships so they can leave Odessa for brighter futures.
As the season approaches, the team looks to star running back
Boobie Miles (Derek Luke) as its anchor; Miles’ talent
has earned him scholarship offers from all the top-tier college
football programs, and he is expected to carry the team to
the title. However, when Miles suffers a torn anterior-cruciate
in the first game, he is lost for the season.
Quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) has to step up and
lead the offense, while backup running backs Don Billingsley
Hedlund) and Chris Comer (Lee Thompson Young) try to fill the
vacancy in the backfield. Billingsley has a tendency to fumble
the ball, and to make matters worse, his alcoholic father Charles
(Tim McGraw), a former all-state running back at Permian, beats
him and ridicules him for failing to uphold the family reputation.
The defense, led by soft-spoken linebacker Ivory Christian
(Lee Jackson) and defensive back Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez),
undersized and learns to use its speed to control opposing
The film plays on the rollercoaster of emotions felt by the
football team—the jubilation following sweet victory
and tears after gut-wrenching defeat.
In order to make the football scenes as accurate as possible,
a group of 40 actors was picked from a pool of 960 applicants
to play members of the team. The actors had to endure agility
drills and run the 40-yard dash as if attempting to qualify
for a real football team. Over 100 plays were drawn up and
by football experts to enhance the realism of the film.
Friday Night Lights marks the first Hollywood starring role
for McGraw, a contemporary country music singer. The film
PG-13 for adult language and sexual content, teen drinking,
and rough sports action.