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The Great Debaters Details


Drawing inspiration from the true story of a temperamental debate coach who molded the students of a small East Texas college into a formidable team that gave even Harvard's elite squad a run for their money, Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters features the director himself as the ambitious educator, and Forest Whitaker as the resentful father of a student whose loyalties now lie almost exclusively with his coach. Melvin B. Tolson (Washington) is the kind of educator who truly recognizes the remarkable power of knowledge. An outspoken Wiley College professor who boldly challenged the discriminatory Jim Crow laws of the 1930s, Tolson's recognizes that his young debate students possess the spark of a new generation. Convinced that they could invoke great change if given the confidence and tools needed to do so, the tireless educator implores his students to take responsibility for the future while furtively attempting to protect them from his clandestine role as an organizer for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Chief among Tolson's promising young students is a 14-year-old prodigy named James Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker). Farmer's father, James Sr. (Forest Whitaker), is a renowned scholar and an important presence in the emerging student's life. Yet despite his formidable reputation, James Sr. has not yet learned how to truly harness the power of knowledge through action and assertion. James Jr. has seen the raving effects of racism all around him, and longs to live in a future where no one must be in fear simply because of the color of their skin. Other talented debaters on Tolson's team include fiercely independent student Henry Lowe (Nate Parker), and Samantha Brooke (Jurnee Smollett) -- the first ever female ever to join the Wiley College debate team. While most educators may not have recognized the remarkable potential of assembling such a disparate team, Tolson's unique vision truly set him apart from the pack as the team begins to experience a series of consecutive victories on their road to challenging Harvard at the National Championships. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

  • Release date:December 25, 2007


Denzel Washington
as Melvin B. Tolson
Forest Whitaker
as James Farmer Sr.
Nate Parker
as Henry Lowe
Jurnee Smollett
as Samantha Booke
Denzel Whitaker
as James Farmer Jr.
Jermaine Williams
as Hamilton Burgess
Gina Ravera
as Ruth Tolson
John Heard
as Sheriff Dozier
Kimberly Elise
as Pearl Farmer
Devyn Tyler
as Helen Farmer
Ritchie Montgomery
as Deputy
Jackson Walker
as Pig Owner
Tim Parati
as Pig Farmer
Justice Leak
as Harland Osbourne
Glen Powell Jr.
as Harvard Debater #1
Brian Smiar
as Harvard Dean
Damien Leake
as Wilson
Gordon Daniels
as Paul Quinn Debate Judge
Donny Boaz
as Oklahoma City College Debater #1
Bonnie Johnson
as Dr. Jennings
Charissa Allen
as Benita
Gary Mathis
as Enormous Man
Fahnlohnee R. Harris
as Clementine
Harold Evans
as William Taylor
J.D. Evermore
as Captain Wainwright
Sharon Jones
as Lila
Kelvin Payton
as Joseph
Southey Blanton
as White Labor Organizer
Michael Mattison
as White Sharecropper #1
Frank Ridley
as Security Guard
Jeremiah Kissel
as Radio Announcer at Harvard Debate
Jack Radosta
as White Man at Lynching
Marcus Brown
as Howard Debater #1
Rhiannon Giddens
as Juke Joint Musician #4
Ahmad Powell
as Fisk Professor
Gregory Nicotero
as Puppeteer
Gino Crognale
as Puppeteer
Michael Deak
as Puppeteer
Alex Diaz
as Puppeteer


Denzel Washington
Oprah Winfrey
Kate Forte
Joe Roth
Todd Black
Jeffrey Porro
Screen Story
Robert Eisele
Robert Eisele
Screen Story
Philippe Rousselot
G. Marq Roswell
Musical Direction/Supervision
James Newton Howard
Composer (Music Score)
Peter Golub
Composer (Music Score)
Hughes Winborne
John Breinholt
David J. Bomba
Production Designer
John R. Jenson
Art Director
Molly Allen
Harvey Weinstein
Executive Producer
Bob Weinstein
Executive Producer
David Crockett
Executive Producer
Sharen Davis
Costume Designer
Patrick Cassidy
Set Decorator
Susan Thomas
Costume Designer
Frank Rose
Costume Designer
Ren Heeralal
Costume Designer
Andrée Fortier
Costume Designer
Meriwether Nichols
Costume Designer
Liz Staub
Costume Designer
Lauren Wade
Costume Designer
Krystle Lamoreaux
Costume Designer
Toby Michael Bronson
Costume Designer
Dorian Cheah
Sound/Sound Designer
Willie D. Burton
Sound/Sound Designer
Jono Oliver
First Assistant Director
Xiomara Comrie
Camera Operator
Pamela Rittelmeyer
Camera Operator
Eric Norris
Russell Towery
Guss Williams
Gregg Brazzel
Bobby Beckles
Denise Chamian
Kim Magruder
Anita Cannella
Foley Artist
Eryne Prine
Assistant Sound Editor
Natalia Anderson
Production Secretary
James Babineaux
Best Boy Electric
Antonio Caetano Santos
Production Assistant
Helen Britten
Assistant Set Decorator
Rob Simons
Assistant Art Director
Geraud Brisson
Additional Editing
Jodie Stern
Assistant Costume Designer
Andria Warren
Production Assistant
Jon Wakeham
Sound Effects Editor
Dana Hart
Costumes Supervisor
Gregg Hale
Second Assistant Director
Brent Dahlin
Annette Ansley
Brian McNulty
Visual Effects Producer
Brian McNulty
Post Production Supervisor
Hodge Grigsby
Production Assistant
Janice Hudson
Hair Styles
Linda Lazar
Giovanni Bommarito
Beverly Reeves
Tim Tuchrello
Sound Effects Editor
Matiki Anoff
Key Make-up
Christine Coggins
Producer's Assistant
Phillip Joffrion
Set Dresser
Jamie Horwitz
Second Assistant Accountant
David Crockett
Unit Production Manager
Greg Orloff
Re-Recording Mixer
Monte Emery
Meredith Wieck
Production Assistant
Nannette Palmer
Set Medic/First Aid
Nicki Johnson
Assistant Production Coordinator
Ryan Misselhorn
Anne Scott
First Assistant Accountant
Herwig Maurer
Sound Effects Editor
Tammy Peck
Animal Trainer/Wrangler
Natalie Ballesteros
Casting Assistant
Riko Schatke
Best Boy Grip
Barbara Mcdermott
Assistant Music Editor
Mindy Jones
Production Accountant
Virle Reid
Assistant Properties
Alison Cannon
Production Accountant
Gary Kelso
Carl Fullerton
Department Head Hair
Adrian Cannon
Dan Hines
Jorge Loredo
Wende Martin
Juan Echanarria
Alajahwon Ridgeway
Production Assistant
Dean Allison
Construction Foreman
Pacific Title
Title Design
Valerie Gladstone
Assistant Hair
Ted Moser
Transportation Coordinator
Ed Burcham
Set Dresser
Rick Kline
Re-Recording Mixer
Gary Tolbert
Aerial Photography
Kim Drummond
ADR Supervisor
Stephanetta Bingley
Personal Assistant
Jacob Riehle
First Assistant Sound Editor
Rita Pearson
Personal Assistant
Erin Oakley
ADR Editor
Rob Brown
Producer's Assistant
Richard Lengle
Jason Halley
Production Assistant
Donny Fowler
Howard Berger
Makeup Special Effects
Arthur Welch
Craft Service/Catering
Patrick Pfupajena
Production Assistant
David Heffler
Production Assistant
Justin Nance
Transportation Captain
John Parricelli
Musical Performer
Bret Carroll
Kami Asgar
Supervising Sound Editor
Tateum Kohut
Re-Recording Mixer
Jorge Vasquez
Jenna Block
Producer's Assistant
Stephen Thorp
Eugene Purcell
Gavin Greenaway
Bruce Schluter
Title Design
Trae Carter
Production Assistant
Lee Wimer
Color Timing
Howard London
ADR Mixer
Steven Huerstel
Cable Person
Shellie Gillespie
Art Department Coordinator
Angela Demo
Casting Associate
Dave Glavin
Todd Kasow
Music Editor
Larry Misselhorn
Michael Dressel
Foley Editor
John Marquis
Sound Effects Editor
Maya Beiser
Musical Performer
Simone Perusse
Joe Hancock
Carmine Rubino
Foley Mixer
Bryan Booth
Jeff Valeri
Production Coordinator
Shannon Thompson
Producer's Assistant
Gregory Nicotero
Makeup Special Effects
Charles Lacy
Musical Performer
Belinda Anderson
Key Hairstylist
Scott Childers
Construction Foreman
Karen Golden
Script Supervisor
Latoya Green
Richard Benavidez
Steve Driggers
Denise Pugh-Ruiz
Assistant Makeup
Tommy Samona
Julian Sylvester
Animal Trainer/Wrangler
Cid Swank
Unit Publicist