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“It was probably the most challenging project I’ve ever done,” says costume designer Melissa Bruning of designing the wardrobes for Space Jam: A New Legacy. For starters, at the beginning of her work on the film starring LeBron James and Don Cheadle, there was no partnership with Nike yet in place. All Bruning knew for sure at that point was that the Looney Tunes logo was a must-have on the uniforms.
“LeBron of course wears Nike because he is a sports star who has his own logo with them, but there was no deal on the table that they were going to help. And with jerseys and sneakers and that sort of thing, you need a lot of lead time,” Bruning tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They do their lines two years in advance, so they can’t just turn around jerseys for you. They are made from special fabric made from recycled bottles. There’s a fabric process called sublimated, which means a computer prints the color and the picture onto a fabric.”
Another challenge: the filmmakers decided that the actual Space Jam game would take place at night, “which causes issues [because] it eliminates a lot of colors. Grays won’t look good. You can’t use black. You don’t want to use navy. They didn’t want to do white like the original,” explains Bruning (Showtime’s Black Monday, War for the Planet of The Apes).
In picking the colors, Bruning checked each potential one against Pantone shades that matched each character’s skin tone. “Does it look good on Taz and Lola and Bugs Bunny and LeBron? We wanted to see what was going to pop the most and then we did a light test. We actually made [the uniforms] brighter because the lighting that they were using would dull down the colors.”
In the end, turquoise was chosen as the main color for the uniforms. “And then we had the brilliant idea to do a jersey where a circle connects through the shorts, which is near impossible — [it was] a mathematical nightmare to get it. So we had to print one, put it together, try it on a body and see how far off we were and then scooch out the bottom of the circle, redo it. I had one assistant on it for a month to figure out exactly how to get this in LeBron’s size,” says Bruning, who had three fittings with the Lakers star to finalize all of his outfits in the film.
James, who wears a size 15 shoe, picked sneakers from his own collection to wear in the film, two pairs of LeBron 15 “Orange Box” Nikes, known as Orangesicles. “He has his own vault of shoes — an actual shoe vault — like a wine vault, in Ohio,” says Bruning. “He was like, ‘I have two of these.’ So I think we could use these shoes and then they can augment it in post if they want to draw on a different shoe, then that’s their choice, which they did.” To find matching pairs for his photo double and stand-in, Bruning searched and bid on pairs on Grailed and Fight Club.
While Nike eventually came on as a partner on the film, another wrench got thrown in when Bruning got a call — “a week before we started using the jersey in the film,” she recalls — from SpringHill Entertainment, James’ production company. “It was one of the producers saying, ‘Something amazing just happened, but it might mess you up. Anthony Davis from the Pelicans just joined the Lakers and LeBron [said] the two of them had decided he was going to give him his number three. And he was going to go back to number six from the Heat. So I had to throw all the uniforms away and start over.”
“And it wasn’t just him,” continues Bruning, “It was him, his photo double, his green screen, like all the people that stand in for him.” The costume team worked furiously to create the new uniforms. “We just literally had to have somebody [stand] over a machine that printed [the uniforms] out,” she says.
Bruning also created an array of costumes for scenes in which James appears in scenes from Mad Max, Casablanca, The Matrix and other Warner Bros. properties. “We had to make all these head to toe because nothing exists that fits LeBron,” says Bruning. One costume that was made didn’t make it into the film though: a Game of Thrones-style suit of armor. “I cried a little inside that that didn’t make it in,” says Bruning.
The costume designer’s team also created costumes for the many extras seen on the sidelines of the big game in Space Jam: A New Legacy, portraying characters from a host of Warners properties, Including It‘s Pennywise, Harley Quinn, Lord Voldemort, droogs from A Clockwork Orange, King Kong, The Joker, The Penguin, The Jetsons, Mr. Freeze, the Pink Panther, Fred Flintstone, Superman, flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz, and every “iteration of Batman from the ’60s.”
For Bruning, the movie represents her career coming full circle in some way. Twenty-five years ago, the very first commercial she ever worked on was directed by Joe Pytka, director of the original Space Jam.
The costume designer shares with THR the items worn in the film by James and the actors who play his family members, from John Elliott sweats to Ami hoodies, plus the favorite fashion items she has her eye on right now. Check out her picks below, and see even more official merch from Space Jam: A New Legacy here.
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“He wore a lot of John Elliott, who is my go-to for tall men who are stylish,” says Bruning. “[The designer has] a really great clean look.”
In the film, James wears a John Elliott hoodie similar to this one, which is crafted from custom knit French terry and cashmere (knit on vintage looms in Wakayama, Japan) with rib-knit waist and cuffs. James and Nike collaborated with John Elliott on a capsule collection back in 2018.
LeBron’s Blue Suede Jacket
The Lakers superstar wears a blue suede jacket by John Varvatos in the film. The designer currently sells a trucker-style blue suede jacket made in 100 percent goat suede “that has been washed and waxed to achieve its distinctive muted blue tone,” per the product description.
James wears rainbow bracelets from M. Cohen’s boutique on West Third Street in Los Angeles. “I purposely picked them because they’re Looney Tunes colors. When you see him in the beginning, he’s got these bracelets that are beaded and a bit of a foreshadow,” says Bruning, who adds that the store also makes custom bracelets.
LeBron’s Dress Shoes, as Rick from Casablanca
James wears shoes by Magnanni, a third-generation, family-owned company based in Almansa, Spain, in the scene where he plays Rick from the classic film Casablanca. Nordstrom offers Magnanni’s Praga Medallion Toe Oxfords in either black or cognac, as well as a similar pair available at the retailer’s Anniversary Sale.
Al G. Rhythm’s Bow Tie
Space Jam: A New Legacy‘s villain, played by Cheadle, wears a bowtie by Brackish, known for its stylish neckwear made from feathers. He also wears a silver jean jacket (similar here) and pants by Dior and shoes by Saint Laurent, Common Projects, Giuseppe Zanotti and Christian Louboutin.
Cedric Joe’s Hoodie
Cedric Joe, who portrays James’ son, Dom James, wears a light brown hoodie by French company Ami in a scene. “I tried to mix as much high-end fashion in that I could, mainly because they were a rich family. So I got to go shopping at fun places,” says Bruning, who purchased clothes for the film from Neiman Marcus, Saks and Bloomingdale’s.
Ceyair J. Wright’s Look
Actor Ceyair J. Wright, who portrays James’ son Darius, wears a graphic black sweatshirt from BlackBarrett by Neil Barrett. The latest bold styles from the brand include this thunderbolt t-shirt in black and white, available at Farfetch and the designer’s website.
Nike Tune Squad Jersey
Nike’s official merch includes the Tune Squad’s turquoise and orange jersey made with 100 percent recycled polyester fibers.
Bruning’s Personal Style Favorites
Superdry Classic Joggers
“I lived in Superdry sweats during the pandemic,” says Bruning. “I bought a pair of pink fluorescent sweatpants that feel very Space Jam.”
Mara Hoffman Pleated Printed Hemp Skirt
For a beach vacation, Bruning is a fan of designer Mara Hoffman’s Tulay pleated printed skirt made of environmentally-friendly hemp.
Loewe Flamenco Mini Leather Clutch
The costume designer also loves this Loewe bag, the Flamenco clutch in mustard with knotted drawstring ties. It’s crafted in Spain and lined in suede.
Farm Rio Tropical Collage Tunic Dress
Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2 Women’s Sneakers
For a workout, Bruning is a fan of Nike’s Air Zoom SuperRep 2 sneakers in lime green, designed for circuit training and HIIT classes.
Stone and Strand Initial Charm Necklace
Bruning calls Stone and Strand’s initial charm necklace, with an M of course, as “everyday feel-special jewelry.”
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