The History of Space Jam & The Development Of It’s Sequel With LeBron James
On February 21st of 2014, the news hit the web that Warner Bros greenlighted a Space Jam Sequel with LeBron James in mind. Now keep in mind that “in mind” doesn’t mean shit. Did you know that Indiana Jones had Tom Selleck instead of Harrison Ford in mind? Jerry Maguire was written for Tom Hanks and not Tom Cruise? The Matrix creators wanted Will Smith and not Keanu Reeves for the role of Neo?
Well, the bloggers and twittersphere didn’t mind the “in mind” and quickly turned that story into a tweet that LeBron and Warner Bros were already working on a sequel to the 1996 Cult Classic. Less than a few hours later, news from LeBron’s camp broke that James is not in any discussion to do the film.
In the past, LeBron has showed his love for the film and said he had interest in doing the sequel during impromptu Twitter Q&A sessions but I just don’t see why he would want to star in a sequel that requires him to “replace” Michael Jordan of all people.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2012
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 19, 2013
First off all, with the rare exceptions like Empire Strikes Back, Evil Dead and The Godfather, sequels usually always disappoint and the longer the time is between the original and the sequel, the more likely it’s going to disappoint, and if the lead star is missing from the sequel then you can almost guarantee a disappointment no matter who you replace the lead star with. Ed Norton was an upgrade over Eric Bana but that couldn’t make people care about the Hulk sequel.
Now if LeBron did care enough to make Space Jam 2 and the movie bombed or even if it did well, can you imagine the criticism in a social media world that LeBron would receive? If you think the dunk contest is a “no-win situation” for him, replacing Michael Jordan is a no-win-in-hell-situation for James.
The only people that were really hating on Jordan in the early 90s were mainly people from Detroit and New York and the small minority aware of his gambling “problems” that also believe that his retirement was a suspension cover-up by David Stern. As for LeBron, he just might be the most hated and criticized NBA player of all-time. Not even the sequel to Troll gets as much love and hate as James does and Troll 2 even had a documentary made about it called “The Best Worst Movie.”
Jordan and Bugs Bunny first met a few years earlier in 1992 when they teamed up to take on Marvin the Martian in a Nike commercial. They later met again in a Nike commercial called “Hare Jordan” that aired during the Super Bowl. It was during the making of these Nike commercials, Jordan also met director Joe Pytka who directed many ad spots for Nike & Gatorade with MJ and it was during this time that Jordan’s agent, David Falk, approached Warner Bros with the idea of expanding those popular commercials into a full-length family film/PR project that would makes lots of money and paint Jordan as a hero and savior that many basketball fans didn’t see Jordan as anymore.
Many popular actors, from Michael J. Fox to Chevy Chase, also didn’t see Jordan as a savior for this project either as they rejected the chance to play a sidekick to MJ in the film.
Supposedly Jordan wasn’t so fond of the 8 week project either as he complained to Pytka about the filmmaking process.
“I just think he hated the whole experience, every aspect of it,” Pytka said. “Remember, in basketball, you’re in total control of everything. In a movie, you’re at the mercy of everybody — the director, cinematographer and in this case Bugs Bunny and a green screen. Standing in front of a camera and remember your lines, acting is a devastatingly difficult profession, trying to create those emotions. … We were very, very careful that Michael was comfortable when he came on the set. The stuff that irritated him was the PR stuff.”
Jordan spent most of the frustrating days playing ball in front of the revolutionary green screens but in the evenings he got to play ball in the custom court, nicknamed the “Jordan Dome” aka “The Bubble,” that was built on set just for him. The stories about pick-up games in the bubble are legendary as the best pro and collegiate players, from Zo to Patrick Ewing to Magic Johnson, would come by and play.
“A typical day for Michael would start with about 30 or 40 minutes of conditioning in the bubble,” said MJ’s trainer Tim Grover. “This would include stretching, running, and various basketball stuff, nothing long distance, to get his wind up. Then he’d go to the movie set for some shooting. At lunch time, he’d work out with weights for about an hour and a half. Then he’d go back to the set from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. From 7:30 p.m. to about 10 p.m., he’d play basketball in the bubble. One night there were 22 top NBA players on different teams playing games.”
The shoot ended within 2 months and after a year of post-production, the $90 million film was released to mixed reviews from critics and lot and lots of money from the public.
The movie was a box office smash, grossing over $230 million worldwide, and remains (and probably will always remain) the top grossing basketball film of all-time.
The theatrical release also benefited from a soundtrack that went platinum 6 times with two giant hit songs by R Kelly and Seal and even a rap song by Bugs Bunny that was ghost-written by Jay-Z.
Then the film benefited from the birth of the DVD and rise in VHS sales and rental stores of the mid 90s and made another $46 million in rental revenue. Warner Bros even put out a series of compilation videos of each popular character and packaged them as “Stars of Space Jam” movies.
All of this along with over 70 Space Jam tie-ins resulted in over $1.2 billion in merchandise sales.
Then with the birth of DreamWorks SKG and rise of Pixar, Warner Bros pondered the idea of putting out a sequel to Space Jam to capitalize off the success of the original and the demand for theatrical animation films but with Jordan returning to the NBA and playing the entire playoffs, making a full-length film with him was out of the question.
SPACE JAM 2 TIMELINE
Supposedly Jordan was approached about doing a sequel with Mel Brooks as the bad guy and MJ didn’t want anything to do with it. Famous artist Bob Camp was in the process of creating concept art for the film.
Scoop Jackson reports the first rumor that Space Jam 2 is being made with LeBron James.
Under it’s Warner Bros Premier division, Warner Bros was planning on releasing a direct to video sequel along with 15 other sequels and prequels. Most of these, including a Beetlejuice and Goonies sequel were never released.
News is released that Kevin Durant has agreed to star in an upcoming basketball film for Warner Bros. Many speculated that it was the sequel to Space Jam but the film ended up being “Thunderstruck.” The film grossed $587k in the theaters and was released on DVD a month later. Thunderstruck grossed less money in the theaters than Space Jam did during matinee showings on opening day.
LeBron says he would love to make Space Jam 2 during a Twitter Q&A
Deadline releases news that Warner Bros is willing to produce and script a Space Jam sequel FOR LeBron James. LeBron’s “camp” says they are not in discussion with Warner Bros.
Warner Bros renews trademarks on Space Jam in June and announces deal with LeBron James in July.
The Hollywood Reporter announces Justin Lin will write and direct a sequel with LeBron James as the star.
LEBRON’S NEXT FILM
So don’t expect to see LeBron balling with Bugs Bunny anytime soon but you can expect to see LeBron balling with Kevin Hart in the upcoming film ‘Ballers.’
Ballers was originally conceived back in 2009 under producer Brian Grazer with the title “Fantasy Basketball Camp” but it’s now being executive produced by LeBron, his business partner Maverick Carter, Kevin Hart and Kim Roth. Hart will also co-write the script about his character, who is the little brother of LeBron James, that attends a fantasy basketball camp in Miami.
History has shown us that films with lead roles played by basketball players aren’t that profitable so it will be very interesting to see if LeBron’s popularity is enough to make it a box office hit.
Here’s a list of films with NBA players in supporting or lead roles and how well they did (in millions) at the box office. Also be sure to consider inflation and the rise of ticket prices and the amount of screenings when comparing the films. Back in the mid 90s, most theaters didn’t carry more than 10 films and tickets were between $2.50-7.50.
- Space Jam (1996) w/ Michael Jordan: $230
- Grown Ups 2 (2013) w/ Shaq: $133
- Scary Movie 4 (2006) w/ Shaq: $90
- Airplane (1980) w/ Kareem: $83
- Like Mike (2002) w/ lots of players: $62
- Eddie (1996) w/ lots of players: $31
- Blue Chips (1994) w/ Shaq & Penny Hardaway: $23
- He Got Game (1998) w/ Ray Allen: $21
- Just Wright (2010) w/ lots of players: $21
- Kazaam (1996) w/ Shaq: $19
- Double Team (1997) w/ Dennis Rodman: $11
- The Perfect Score (2004) w/ Darius Miles: $10
- Black and White (2000) w/ Allan Houston: $5.2
- Steel (1997) w/ Shaq 1.7
- Thunderstruck (2012) w/ Kevin Durant: $587k
- Minis (2007) w/ Dennis Rodman – Straight to DVD
If you really want to see something cool that’s Space Jam related then check these out.
Source: Chicago Tribune