“Anything is possible.”
Those famous words from NBA legend Kevin Garnett after his team won the 2008 championship could also serve as the unofficial motto of Uncut Gems. Directors Benny and Josh Safdie’s 10-year mission to cast Adam Sandler in the lead role finally succeeded; Sandler took a break from critically demolished comedies to turn in the best performance of his career; Julia Fox casually decided to try her hand at acting and subsequently jumped off the screen in her debut film; and as on the basketball court, Garnett proved to be a magnetic force, playing himself in a major supporting role.
In fact, it was something of an upset that Garnett, who was just named a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame, even ended up in Uncut Gems. As New York natives and diehard Knicks fans, the Safdies originally had Amar’e Stoudemire in mind to portray the NBA player who becomes obsessed with Howard’s (Sandler) opal. But that didn’t work out, and neither did Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant or current Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. So in stepped Garnett, an NBA champion, MVP, 15-time All-Star, and — worst of all in the Safdies’ minds — a Boston Celtic. It was difficult, but the Safdies would put aside the New York-Boston rivalry to cast Garnett, who rewarded them by delivering one of the great athlete screen performances of all time (Shaq in Kazaam just missed the list).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There were a lot of NBA players who were going to be in the film at one time or another, but can you take us through the process of how two hardcore Knicks fans cast a Celtics legend in Kevin Garnett?
BENNY SAFDIE: Being Knicks fans, we always wanted to work with Amar’e Stoudemire, because had that insane run, and then as we couldn’t make the movie, we just shifted with the times, and we were like, “All right, let’s just make it contemporary at this point.” And we wanted to do it with Joel Embiid, and he was attached. Then when production pushed back into the fall, we couldn’t work with an active player, and they gave us a whole list of people who we could work with, and we saw Kevin on the list and at first it was tough, because we didn’t even think about him because he destroyed us as Knick fans and it was so hard to kind of get over that. But then you realize he plays with such passion and energy that of course it’s going to work. And so we got on the phone and just immediately vibed and didn’t want to get off. I know Kevin had seen Lenny Cooke, a documentary that we had made, and he respected that, and I think from there …read more
Source:: Entertainment WEEKLY