One bit of drollery largely missing from the Philadelphia area since March 2020 has been the celebrity sighting.
Time was, you’d be eating a burger at Parc, or walking down Market Street, and you’d catch a glimpse of someone who is Someone. You’d call your friends, or post on Instagram, to describe the encounter.
One of the little unexpected joys of city life.
The pandemic changed that. Masks obscure faces. Is that Kirsten Dunst or the young woman in Apartment 302? Entertainers and athletes have been laying low on their social activities. Philly’s movie and TV scene — which has always been good for a celeb moment over the years (Lauren Graham at Tinto! Bradley Cooper and Renée Zellweger at a Starbucks! Bill Murray giving a waitress a pair of pants as a tip!) — basically dried up.
Leave it to Adam Sandler to revive the area’s celebrity quotient — and to perk up the restaurant scene and economy, as well. The actor/producer arrived in fall 2020 with a crew to shoot a Netflix basketball-theme drama, in which he plays a struggling NBA scout who brings a prospect — played by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez — to the United States.
The film, titled Hustle , also stars Queen Latifah, Robert Duvall, and Jaleel White. It features a gaggle of NBA players, such as Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Trae Young. LeBron James is a producer. Philadelphia native Jeremiah Zagar (We the Animals), son of Julia and Isaiah Zagar, the Magic Gardens mosaic muralist, is director.
Sandler and company shot here for about two months, packed up, and returned in August 2021 for more.
He’s gone pricey (Steak 48 in Center City and Davio’s in King of Prussia, with Blake Clark), lowbrow (Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar in South Philadelphia, where he also shot a scene), and smack in the middle (Pietro’s in Radnor). He bought ice cream at Handel’s in Berwyn.
His costars have made the rounds and found themselves in the lens of the city’s lone paparazzo, HughE Dillon, a.k.a. Phillychitchat.
To wit, White, known as Steve Urkel on the sitcom Family Matters, showed up at Izakaya by Yanaga in Fishtown.
Even a bakery got a slice of the business. When Sandler turned 55 on Sept. 6, his wife, Jackie, ordered a carrot cake in the shape of a standing carrot from Night Kitchen Bakery in Chestnut Hill.
The production is due to wrap next week. Netflix has not announced a release date.
As for more productions on the horizon, Sharon Pinkenson, who heads the city’s film office, said she knows of a few indies on the way but would not specify actors or directors.