Q: What do you remember about watching Monday Night Football® when you were younger?
A: I remember Howard Cosell. He was unforgettable, a very interesting person. I think he defined sports announcing. Howard was willing to be unpopular and to speak his mind. He was willing to, as he said, "tell it like it is," and to fight for what he believed in, even if it went against the grain of what everybody else was thinking. He was willing to put his reputation and his life on the line when a lot of people wouldn't.
Q: Were there any pressures of casting for Howard Cosell?
A: I've worked with John Turturro before -- we have a bit of a history together from the films I did with Spike Lee. What's interesting is that John said that he always used to do Howard Cosell imitations in the mirror, so it's like he's been practicing for years, even before he knew he was going to play this role. I think it's a lot of fun and a great challenge for him. Cosell was a man of supreme confidence and had command of the English language, but he was also a man very in touch with the injustices that a lot of people in this world have dealt with, and he saw himself on that side. I think that's why he aligned himself with unpopular causes. He grew up poor and Jewish, and I think, back then, there was a very interesting relationship between the Jewish community and the African-American community, especially in the New York area.
Q: What research was done for the story?
A: A lot of that came from Bill Carter, who wrote the script and was one of the authors of the book. He talked to a lot of people. Fortunately, a lot of those folks are still alive, so he was able to get a lot of first-person accounts and incorporate them into the screenplay. Many people were willing to talk to us, so that helped a lot. It's interesting because there are aspects that were extremely well-documented, for instance Howard's life. On the other hand, Roone is a little bit of an enigma. We don't know a lot about him. It's probably one of the most difficult roles in the film. It's a job John Heard did brilliantly. It's not easy because there's a lot of mystery about Roone and you want to capture that mystery. We know that Roone kept a lot inside, and we want to relay that, but we don't want to make it so internal that the audience doesn't feel it. It's a combination of historical documentation that we have to draw upon, word-of-mouth and a little bit of speculation, based on the facts that we do have.
Q: How would you describe the chemistry between Cosell, Meredith and Gifford?
A: It was a chemistry between three totally different personalities, and, combined, they created another personality. They were able to bring out the human aspect of the game and get rid of the heavyweight attitude that covering the game had before. I think audiences were ready for that. They were ready for something new, and these three gave it to them. They were an interesting mix, and it was very exciting that Howard and Don were capable of saying anything, and they did.