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LUCKY YOU

The Reel Deal
"Lucky You” is the first Hollywood film to be set against the excitement and drama of the recent worldwide poker phenomenon, and the filmmakers went to great lengths to accurately represent the world of high-stakes cash games and tournament play in Las Vegas, circa 2003. For assistance, they turned first to poker legend Doyle "Texas Dolly” Brunson. In addition to serving as the film's poker consultant, Brunson was in a position to have a special insight into the central characters of "Lucky You.” Like Robert Duvall's character, L.C. Cheever, Brunson is a two-time World Series of Poker Champion and is considered an icon in the world of poker. And, like L.C., Brunson also has a son, Todd Brunson, who has followed in his father's footsteps and will forever be faced with the legacy of his more-famous father.

Matt Savage, who has been a tournament director for some of the biggest events in poker, served as the film's tournament consultant, and professional poker player Jason Lester, who finished fourth in the WSOP Main Event in 2003, acted as a consultant for the scenes involving the film's climactic Main Event championship. Brunson, Savage and Lester also make cameo appearances in the movie.

The first order of business was to teach Bana and Duvall how to play poker like seasoned pros. "Robert Duvall and Eric Bana trained for months in order to play side-by-side with the poker professionals who appear in the film. Their goal was not to become expert players, per se, but to be able to sit at the table and handle their cards and their chips like the experts,” explains Hanson. "Robert also had the privilege of spending a considerable amount of time with Doyle Brunson. And while his character is not based on Doyle, it was certainly informed by Robert's experiences with him.”

While hanging out with Brunson, Duvall discovered that, in the poker world, the definition of a celebrity is quite different. "I went down with Doyle to the casino in Commerce, California, and almost nobody came up to me at all. I don't even know if they recognized me. He was definitely the star when we walked in there.”

Eric Bana also benefited from time spent with some real-life poker pros, both on and off the set. "It lifted our game because it's impossible for it not to rub off,” the actor says. "For instance, a scene that might only be a minute onscreen could take us days to shoot, so that's hours and hours sitting around with these guys, and all you're doing between takes is talking poker. It definitely elevated my ability to sell my character as someone who knows his way around a poker table.”

"With millions of people watching poker on television, it was vital to maintain the authenticity of not only the game but its players,” states Hanson. To that end, Brunson, Lester and Savage were joined onscreen by some of today's most recognizable poker pros: Jack Binion, Johnny Chan, Hoyt Corkins, Antonio Esfandiari, Sam Farha, Chris Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Phil Hellmuth, Chau Giang, Barry Greenstein, Dan Harrington, Karina Jett, John Juanda, Erick Lindgren, Minh Ly, Mike Matusow, Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Mimi Tran, Cyndy Violette, Marsha Waggoner and Robert Williamson III. "It was very important that we surround the actors with people who really know how to play the game, how to handle their chips, and how to bet,” Hanson asserts. "To me, that was more important than having people who could just deliver the lines. Poker is very much a game of looks and attitude.”

In fact, apart from Eric Bana and Robert Duvall, one of the only Hollywood actors with a major role at the poker table is Emmy winner Jean Smart in the role of Michelle Lewis. Smart's character was inspired by one of poker's most successful female professionals, Jennifer Harman, while Harman herself appears in the film as a fictional player named Shannon Ki

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