In Hollywood, wealth and power can feel like a prison sentence when all you really want is to be taken seriously. Such was the case for McG, the candy maker behind both Charlie's Angels confections, who decided to challenge himself with this true story about the coaches (Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox) who resuscitated the Marshall College football team after a 1970 plane crash killed 75 players and most of the coaching staff. ''I wanted to do something 180 degrees away from what I was known for,'' says the director, who had to convince Warner Bros. brass he was up to the task. McG isn't the only one who was hit on a visceral level by the contrast between raw emotion and the tough-guy world of football. McConaughey sought out the role of Coach Jack Lengyel before the filmmakers ever approached him. The redemption story also scored with Fox, a former footballer for Columbia University, who wept through his first meeting to discuss playing the taciturn assistant coach, Red Dawson. ''I had a strong sense of who Dawson was before I ever met him,'' says Fox. ''The men we're dealing with don't share their thoughts or feelings.''