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In his first project since directing the record-breaking Black Panther, Ryan Coogler is teaming with LeBron James on the long-anticipated follow-up to the Michael Jordan-Bugs Bunny hit Space Jam, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Coogler will produce the new 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 off-season. It will be James’ first starring role after a successful turn as a supporting character in the 2015 Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck.
Getting Coogler, whose credits also include Creed and Fruitvale Station, is a coup. The director is among the industry’s most sought-after artists. Not only did Black Panther break ground as a superhero movie from a black perspective with a black cast, but it has set a number of box-office benchmarks on its way to grossing $1.34 billion worldwide, including becoming the highest-grossing film ever by a black director.
“I loved his 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.”
Space Jam has been long-rumored, with various directors and writers attached to the project over the years, including at one point Justin Lin, the action auteur behind the Fast & Furious movies. (Lin remains an executive producer.) The movement on the project coincides with James’ recent surge in Hollywood film and TV projects as a producer. Just last week, NBC and The CW announced separate shows in development with James’ SpringHill Entertainment.
The subtext of a James-headlined Space Jam sequel is the raging GOAT debate between James (who still has years left in the NBA) and Jordan (who has six NBA championships), players with pronounced personality differences. Jordan was a global superstar and endorsement king when he made the original 1996 film, which pulled in about $250 million worldwide and is still the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time. Space Jam was chock-full of cameos from NBA players (and Warner Bros.’ Looney Toons). So it’s safe to assume the new iteration will include a plethora of basketball’s biggest stars, especially given James’ stature in the league. It’s unclear at this point, however, if Jordan will be among those featured.
“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.”
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