One On One: 40 years since CSU shone in the Hollywood spotlight

One On One posterForty years ago, Fort Collins and CSU were the center of the film industry universe.

Well, maybe not exactly the center, but it sure seemed that way when One on One – the only feature film shot primarily in Fort Collins – made its premiere.

“Boy, the campus and the city were sure excited about the movie,” said Gordon Hazard, who was the student building manager of the Lory Student Center in 1976 when most of the film was created. “It was a pretty big deal.”

Mind you, Fort Collins was much smaller than it is now – fewer than 50,000 residents. And no one here had ever imagined that the city and CSU would be chosen as the fictional home for the movie, which chronicled the journey of a small-town basketball star as he tried to survive big-time college basketball.

Hazard, now a volunteer CSU history researcher based at Morgan Library, just happened to be on duty at the LSC when Lamont Johnson, the film’s director, and a crew arrived for the first time to scope out the campus. Hazard showed them the main ballroom, the art lounge and other student center spaces that eventually ended up in the film.

Some of the scenes where shot at Highland High School in Ault, the small town about 20 miles east of the city, but the bulk of the approximately 10-day shoot was spent in the student center and Moby Gym, as it was known at the time. Other scenes were shot in California, where the fictional Western University was located.

Unknown star

The star of the film was Robby Benson, an unknown at the time who had co-written the screenplay with his father. His co-star was Annette O’Toole, the hard-core coach was played by G.D. Spradlin, and there was a cameo by Bobby Anderson, the former CU football All-American. There was also a brief scene featuring a young Melanie Griffith as a hitchhiker.

Hazard laughed while recalling Benson’s lack of star status. Hazard was observing while a scene was being shot at the LSC when someone asked who was starring in the film.

“Robby Benson was standing right next to me – I had no idea who he was,” he said.

The campus, city star

Hundreds of area residents showed up to serve as extras for crowd scenes at Moby. The volunteers weren’t paid, but there were drawings for prizes – and the chance to be seen on the big screen.

The film debuted with a world premiere party in Fort Collins on June 28, 1977. Benson, O’Toole and many others showed up for the screening at the old Fox Theater on the corner of Prospect Road and College Avenue.

The film didn’t win any awards but was well-received by audiences. Many websites rank it among the top 12 basketball films ever made. But in Fort Collins, the movie stands alone as the city’s one memorable trip into the Hollywood spotlight.

“It was a lot of fun for the campus and city when they were filming,” Hazard said. “And when the movie came out it was so much fun to see it. It wasn’t an Oscar winner but it was a fun movie.”