LeBron James has launched a whole bunch of Hollywood projects in recent months, but there’s only one that basketball fans of a certain age have been waiting for years to hear about. Well, we heard about it on Wednesday, courtesy of the social media presence of SpringHill Entertainment, the production company co-founded by James and friend/business partner Maverick Carter …
… and from Marisa Guthrie of The Hollywood Reporter. That’s right, you guys: LeBron’s long-rumored “Space Jam” sequel is picking up steam, and now has Ryan Coogler — director of “Black Panther,” “Creed” and “Fruitvale Station” — attached as a producer.
Over the years, James has made no secret of his interest in following in the big-screen footsteps of Michael Jordan by exploring the “Looney Tunes” universe. After many years of speculation, suggestions and false starts, the movement toward some kind of follow-up or reboot of “Space Jam” — the hit 1996 film that saw Jordan don a “Tune Squad” uniform to help the Looney Tunes avoid enslavement by an intergalactic theme-park owner (seriously) and that remains the highest-grossing basketball movie ever made — began mounting momentum in the summer of 2015, when SpringHill signed a big “content creation” deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment, one month after the studio filed new trademarks on “Space Jam.”
Carter told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com in March 2015 that a James-led “Space Jam” project had not “been discussed in detail with Warner,” that LeBron “couldn’t even entertain that discussion until he’s finished with the Cavs this season at the earliest,” and that starting production on such a project “in James’ limited time this summer would seem virtually impossible.” All the same, SpringHill president Jamal Henderson said the project was “super on the radar,” even if there was no news to report.
Well, after a period where “Fast & Furious 6” director Justin Lin was believed to be in line to helm the project, there is some new news to report, according to Guthrie:
Coogler will produce the “Space Jam” movie and Terence Nance – who created HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness” and directed the experimental film “The Oversimplification of Her Beauty” – will direct. Production on the Warner Bros. film is tentatively slated for 2019, during the NBA offseason. It will be James’ first starring role after a successful turn as a supporting character in the 2015 Amy Schumer comedy “Trainwreck.” […]
“I loved [Coogler’s] vision” for “Black Panther,” James tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that when he was a kid growing up in Akron, Ohio, there were no black superheroes. “So for Ryan to be able to bring that to kids, it’s amazing.”
The current vision for this new “Space Jam,” evidently, is for something that’s not truly a sequel:
Space Jam 2, while a part of the Space Jam franchise, is not considered a sequel, a source familiar with the production told ESPN. However, there have been discussions in involving Michael Jordan in some way. At this point, Jordan’s level of involvement is to be determined.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) September 19, 2018
The broad strokes, though — one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bugs Bunny and, we’re hoping, Bill Murray — remain intact. More from Guthrie:
“The ‘Space Jam’ collaboration is so much more than just me and the Looney Tunes getting together and doing this movie,” says James, “It’s so much bigger. I’d just love for kids to understand how empowered they can feel and how empowered they can be if they don’t just give up on their dreams. And I think Ryan did that for a lot of people.”
While the last round of “Space Jam 2” hype went nowhere fast, this seems, at least, to be a bit more substantive, given James’ recent raft of projects put into production, the arrival of Coogler and Nance, and the setting of a tentative release date. Whatever results from the project probably won’t be for everybody, much like its predecessor, but if nothing else, perhaps it will give us a new round of NBA player cameos. For example: Boban Marjanovic is already in L.A. and we know he’s available if the role’s right. Make the call, LeBron!
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