- “Hustle” manager Jeremiah Zagar spoke with Insider about picking NBA star Anthony Edwards.
- Edwards is the scene stealer in the movie as Kermit Welts heels.
- Zaghar said he brought “realism and vanity” to the role.
It might be Adam Sandler who is tempted
Viewers click to play “Hustle,” but it’s Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Anthony Edwards who will make a lasting impression.
In a movie where some of the greatest basketball stars in the world essentially play themselves, Sandler and Hustle director Jeremiah Zagar had a different plan for Edwards.
“Hustle” delves into the nitty-gritty of the modern NBA world as Sandler plays Stanley, a Philadelphia 76ers explorer who discovers a phenomenon called Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernángómez) during an overseas trip. When the 76ers don’t care about Cruz, Stanley quits the team and decides to risk everything on Cruz by using his league connections to make him a recruiter.
However, every good sports movie needs a good heel to face the hero.
Halfway through the film, Cruise meets Kermit Willets, a potential First Division candidate who annoys Cruise, thanks to his talent on the court and his vicious trash talk.
This presented an interesting challenge. The person who played the Wilts not only needed to be able to the ball in addition to the strength of the Utah Jazz forward – he also had to have similar representative pieces.
“We didn’t get to play Kermit until the second half of filming,” Zagar told Insider by phone, explaining that the film was shot over two summers, with the second summer focusing on all the basketball scenes.
“There were a couple of other NBA superstars, but when Adam proposed to Anthony, it seemed perfect,” Zagar added.
Since he was drafted by Timberwolves in 2020, Edwards has quickly become a favorite among NBA fans for his charm and wit during his post-match interviews.
It definitely caught Sandler’s attention.
“I think Adam was watching his press conferences and he felt like he had a great vibe,” Zagar said.
It also helped that Hernangómez was at Timberwolves during Edwards’ season, so they really had the chemistry.
But to hone his initial acting talents, Edwards worked with Zaggar’s longtime acting coach Noel Gentile, who helped the NBA star come up with his character.
However, Zagar said Edwards did not hesitate to make Kermit Welts his own.
“Anthony was rewriting his lines with Guancho on the day of the shooting to make sure they felt like him,” he said.
As a result, Edwards became the scene stealer in the film. He’s captivating as the movie’s antagonist, who goes so far as to talk about Cruise’s daughter in the stands to get him off his game.
Zagar admitted that he knew Edwards was gone, even during production.
“This is a shot in the movie, where Bo Cruz enters and meets Kermit for the first time,” Zagar recalls. And the way Anthony was able to communicate his line perfectly every time that camera moved is something that even seasoned actors have trouble with. So right away I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ “
Zagar noted that although some will see Edwards’ character as the film’s villain, they consider him more than that.
“If Kermit is just a villain he’s not interested, but if he’s an anti-hero, which I see, if he’s more like Michael Jordan than he’s kind of a 2D character, he’s more exciting. That’s what Anthony brought in,” Zagar said. “That realism and vanity.”
“If we want to make ‘Hustle 2’ it will be about it,” the director added. “That’s how I think about it.”
“Hustle” is now available on Netflix.