When Adam Sandler took a break from comedy to play a debt-ridden jewellery store owner in Josh and Benny Safdie’s crime thriller Uncut Gems, he received critical acclaim and a slew of awards.
Sandler’s acting chops are put to the test once more in Hustle, director Jeremiah Zagar’s life-affirming sports drama, penned by Taylor Materne and Will Fetters.
Since its release on Netflix on 8 June, the new film has created quite a stir, rapidly rising to the top of the streaming service’s Top 10 movies list.
Fans have been wondering if Hustle is based on a true story, as it stars genuine NBA player Juancho Hernangómez, and features appearances from other notable players from the past and present, like Seth Curry, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What happens in Hustle?
In Hustle, Sandler portrays Stanley Sugerman, a down-on-his-luck basketball scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who has dedicated every waking hour to his favourite sport at the expense of his personal relationships.
For the past nine years, Stanley has been away from his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) for weeks at a time, and hasn’t been home to celebrate the birthday of his daughter Jordan (Jordan Hull).
During a scouting trip to Spain, Stanley is blown away by Bo Cruz’s (Juancho Hernangomez) natural potential, who is struggling to support his mother and little daughter.
Bo is persuaded by Stanley to relocate to Philadelphia in order to try out for the NBA, but the 76ers’ owner (Ben Foster) vetoes the notion.
Stanley secretly trains Bo for an all-or-nothing shot at sporting fame, convinced that he is on the verge of becoming a superstar.
Is it based on a true story?
Hustle is not based on a true story.
The fictional film is based on a script by writers Taylor Materne and Will Fetters; Bo Cruz is not a genuine NBA player.
Fetters was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the critically acclaimed film A Star Is Born, while Materne has worked on the NBA 2K video games.
Hustle does include appearances from various real NBA players from the past and present portraying themselves however.
Speaking to SlashFilm , Sandler said the goal when making the film “was to make sure the hoop looked as cool as possible, as real as possible.”
Here are just some of the real NBA players featured in the film:
- Charles Barkley
- Jordan Clarkson
- Seth Curry
- Luka Doncic
- Julius Erving
- Aaron Gordon
- Tobias Harris
- Allen Iverson
- Kyle Lowry
- Tyrese Maxey
- Khris Middleton
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Shaquille O’Neal
- Doc Rivers
- Sergio Scariolo
- Brad Stevens
- Matisse Thybulle
- Trae Young
Star of the film - alongside Sandler - is Juancho Hernangómez, who has spent six seasons in the NBA after leaving CB Estudiantes, the team of his home city, Madrid.
The Denver Nuggets selected the 26-year-old with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2016 draft, and he has also played with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz, among others.
Hernangomez was at first apprehensive about auditioning for the part, and “never dreamed to be an actor”. But with the urging of his brother and sister, he eventually gave it a chance.
“They called my agent because they were looking and doing an open casting,”Hernangomez said. “I was telling them, ‘No, I’m not interested. I don’t want to waste my time being an actor.’ I never dreamed about it. So I told them no for five or six months, and then Covid hit.
“I wasn’t on a team. I was quarantined with my brother and my sister, and we were so bored that my sister knew about the casting, and she was like, ‘Why don’t we play like [we’re] doing a movie?’ and we just did the audition.”
Sandler’s Stanley Sugerman is also a fictional character who isn’t based on a real-life Philadelphia 76ers scout, though they are a legitimate basketball team.
The squad, known as the Sixers, is headquartered in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and competes in the NBA, as represented in Hustle.
How can I watch it?
Hustle is streaming on Netflix now.