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The Program

The movie poster for The Program.
Directed by David S. Ward
Produced by Tom Rothman,
Duncan Henderson,
Samuel Goldwyn Jr.
Written by David S. Ward,
Aaron Latham
Starring James Caan,
Halle Berry,
Omar Epps,
Craig Sheffer,
Kristy Swanson
Music by Michel Colombier
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures (USA)
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (International)
Release date(s) September 24, 1993
Running time 112 min.
Language English

The Program is a 1993 film starring James Caan, Halle Berry, Omar Epps, Craig Sheffer, Kristy Swanson, Daniel Lee, and Joey Lauren Adams. The film was directed by David S. Ward who has directed and written other Hollywood films such as the Major League series.

The film touches on the season of the fictional college football team, the ESU Timberwolves as they deal with the pressure to make a bowl game, drug and alcohol abuse, and overall college life. It follows the trials of Coach Sam Winters (Caan), the Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Kane (Sheffer), the freshman running back Darnell Jefferson (Epps), their girlfriends (Berry & Swanson), and other team members.

The film was released by Touchstone Pictures in September 1993. The movie went on to gross over twenty million dollars at the box office. The film was shot on location at several American universities, including: Boston College, Duke University, the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa, and the University of South Carolina. The film includes a cameo appearance from Michigan coaching legend Bo Schembechler.



The ESU Timberwolves are entering a season with high expectations after two disappointing seasons. The film begins with a loss to end the prior season, along with the school president putting pressure on Sam Winters to win this coming season or face a possible firing. Quarterback Joe Kane spends the Christmas bowl season with his alcoholic father and brother, while NFL prospect Alvin Mack gives his mother a present to go with the new house she will soon have when he turns pro. The film then follows the recruiting of Darnell Jefferson, a highly rated running back, and his eventual commitment to ESU.

The film then cuts to the following fall, as football season is about to get underway. Fall camp commences, with Jefferson fumbling during practice and subsequently forced to carry a football with him at all times. Winters warns that if any other player brings the football back to him, "you'll wish you were never born." Kane has trouble with the pressure put upon him by the school and its Heisman campaign prepared for him, and drinks to deal with his stress. He meets a tennis player, Camille, (Kristy Swanson) and as their first date they go on a thrilling and scary motorcycle ride. They then develop a relationship. Mack's indifference to academics is shown clearly in a tutoring session where he couldn't care less about learning the material, but his strong ability to read offenses and football strategy during film study shows his commitment to football. Lattimer is obviously taking performance-enhancing drugs as he goes from a backup to starter on defense in one season (after gaining 30 lbs. of muscle in the offseason), and showing signs of "roid rage" when he learns he will be a starter at the beginning of the season. Lattimer walks into the parking lot, and shatters car windows with his head while screaming "STARTING DEFENSE!! PLACE AT THE TABLE!!"

The film progresses to show the problems of a "big-time" football program. Winters' daughter is expelled for taking a test for Bobby Collins, a backup quarterback. Kane and ESU then lose a close game to Michigan, calling into question Kane's ability to win the Heisman. Later incidents occur when Lattimer assaults a girl unwilling to "hook up" with him, but her father is a large football booster and gets her to drop the charges (Lattimer is forced to take urine tests with coach Winters watching). Lattimer is suspended for three games based on this steroid use. All-American Alvin Mack criticizes him, but Lattimer defends himself by saying "Not everyone has your ability Alvin, you do what you have to do to play." Also, Kane is forced into rehab when he is involved in a bar fight and DUI after the Michigan loss. With Kane out for 4 games, the team goes 2-2.

After losing to Iowa where Mack suffers a career ending injury also, Lattimer is run over at the goal line by the Iowa running back (the film implying that Lattimer is weaker without steroids) for the winning score, ESU has a final game against Georgia Tech. This game will win the conference and secure a major bowl game. GT leads the game 10-0 at the half. Joe Kane was benched for Bobby Collins but asked to start in the 2nd half. He proceeds to lead the team to victory, securing a major bowl game. The film ends with Kane reuniting with Camille, and the coaches leaving on a recruiting trip to look for next season's freshmen.


Pressure surrounds them. Competition divides them. Glory unites them.


List of major characters in The Program

  • Coach Sam Winters (ESU Head Coach) : James Caan
  • Autumn Haley (Jefferson's girlfriend)  : Halle Berry
  • Darnell Jefferson (ESU freshman running back) : Omar Epps
  • Joe Kane (ESU quarterback): Craig Sheffer
  • Camille Shafer (Kane's girlfriend) : Kristy Swanson
  • Bud Kaminski (ESU offensive lineman) : Abraham Benrubi
  • Steve Lattimer (ESU defensive lineman) : Andrew Bryniarski
  • Alvin Mack (ESU linebacker, defensive leader) : Duane Davis
  • Ray Griffen (ESU starting running back) : J. Leon Pridgen II
  • Bobby Collins (ESU backup quarterback) : Jon Pennell
  • Daniel Luciano (ESU sideline photographer) : Daniel Lee
  • Louanne Winters (Coach Winter's daughter, Collins' love interest ) : Joey Lauren Adams
  • Reporter #3 : Rhoda Griffis


The film originally included a scene in which Kane reads aloud comically "It says here that I'm good under pressure," while holding a Sports Illustrated college football preview issue with him on the front cover. He then lies down the middle of a road on the yellow line as cars barely pass him at highway speeds. Several team members who are at first trying to stop Kane decide that it is a test of their bravery and team unity and join him. Influenced by the film, several teenagers imitated this scene and were either killed or suffered injuries. This resulted in the scene being omitted from the original film.[1]

It is believed that the actual camera negatives of this scene were ordered destroyed by Buena Vista, and for this reason, all currently available versions of the film are missing this scene.

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