Adam Sandler, LeBron James and Queen Latifah were met with deafening cheers from hundreds of fans who lined the streets around Westwood’s Regency Village Theatre at the “Hustle” world premiere on Wednesday night.
James produced the Jeremiah Zagar-directed Netflix sports drama which stars Sandler as Stanley “Sugerman” Beren, a washed-up basketball scout who sees a chance for a career comeback when he discovers a phenomenally talented street ball player in Spain.
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Spanish professional basketball player and Utah Jazz power forward Juancho Hernangomez made his acting debut in the film, taking on the role of Beren’s protégée, Bo Cruz. The cast also featured numerous past and current NBA stars including Kenny Smith, Trae Young, Kyle Lowry, Anthony Edwards and Seth Curry, among others.
A basketball superfan, Sandler had previously teamed up with NBA legend Kevin Garnett in the 2019 crime thriller “Uncut Gems.” When asked if “Hustle” was just an excuse for Sandler to work with more of his favorite players, he told Variety, “It was a lucky thing. They sent me the script and it was something that I knew I would be excited to come to work every day doing.”
Sandler said he was open to the idea of a “Hustle” sequel, but he was taking a wait-and-see approach. “That’s always a good thought but we’ll see,” he told Variety. “I had a great time making this one, and the director is awesome. And all the co-stars, I get to be friends with now, so it’s great.”
Of working with Hernangomez, Sandler declared, “He’s a handsome, cool man, that one.”
After starring in sports movies centered on football (“The Longest Yard”, “The Waterboy”), golf (“Happy Gilmore”) and now basketball, Sandler said that he hoped to tackle baseball in a future project. “I would love to do baseball one day, but I think I’m too old and I’ll have to be a coach,” he said. “And that’s cool.”
Sandler added, “One I wouldn’t do, you wouldn’t want to see me swimming. The bathing suit is not a good thing!”
Hernangomez told Variety that he repeatedly declined requests to audition for “Hustle”, saying, “It was never my dream to be an actor.” However, he eventually participated in the casting process after being convinced by his brother and sister when they became bored while quarantining together at home. “It was crazy,” Hernangomez said of learning that he had landed a leading role in the movie.
He raved about working with Sandler, telling Variety, “We are like family. I love him like my dad and he loves me like his son.”
Hernangomez noted that Sandler gave him acting advice every day and he learned a lot from watching the star. “He’s the best at what he does, that’s why he’s Adam Sandler.” He added, “I enjoyed so much every single day with him.”
The athlete said that he wasn’t sure if he would continue acting but he would be on board to work with Sandler again. “If Adam called me, I would love to do one more with him,” he said. Of a potential sequel to “Hustle”, Hernangomez said, “If he called me or Jeremiah Zagar, the director, called me, I will do it because I know them. I know how they work.”
Latifah told reporters that she had a “great time” working with her longtime friend Sandler and enjoyed playing his character’s spouse Teresa. She said, “I got to play his wife, his support system, and I like him being able to show different sides of who he is and get to flex different muscles as well.”
Though many of the basketball pros in the cast were newcomers to acting, Latifah said that their careers made it easier for them to play their characters. “Everybody did great,” she said. “I think they are used to being on camera. I think it’s just kind of transferring the mindset from handling the basketball to being on camera and pretending to do what they normally do.”
“Hustle” will begin streaming on Netflix on June 8.
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