If things had gone differently, Sixers fans could have seen center Joel Embiid on the big screen right alongside Adam Sandler in the forthcoming movie Uncut Gems.
But instead, we’re getting retired Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett.
Uncut Gems filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie discussed Embiid’s near inclusion in the movie in a recent appearance on The Ringer’s NBA Desktop podcast, saying the Sixer was attached to the project for “a very long time.”
“Joel made sense for the themes of the movie — it’s about this Ethiopian opal that gets smuggled into the city, and this African player was going to basically reclaim it, and it was going to empower him,” Josh Safdie said on NBA Desktop of Embiid, who is Cameroonian.
Embiid, however, had to drop out after the film’s schedule pushed into the NBA’s season, which precluded him from being involved. If it’s any consolation, though, Embiid’s manager, Jenny Sacks, plays Garnett’s manager in the movie, the Safdie brothers said.
While Philly would have been psyched to have Embiid appear in a feature film, it seems that at least one other star of Uncut Gems would also have appreciated acting alongside the Process himself. Sandler, who plays a jewelry store owner in Uncut Gems, was spotted wearing some of Embiid’s merch in an appearance on the Howard Stern Show this week.
Despite Embiid having to leave the movie, the Safdie brothers told NBA Desktop that they were more than happy with Garnett’s role in the Uncut Gems — even though, as Knicks fans, they initially hated him.
“That’s where the Knicks fandom of me eclipsed my intelligence with filmmaking, where I actually couldn’t see that, actually, the fact that I hated him was a reason why he’s perfect for the movie,” Josh Safdie said. “He’s a great actor, he knows how to perform.”
Philly sports fans, meanwhile, will still get the chance to see Embiid perform on the court this week. The Sixers next face off against the Washington Wizards in an away game on Thursday at 7 p.m.
If Embiid had, in fact, gotten the role, he would have been the second Sixers center in a major movie this year. Embiid’s former back up Boban Marjanović, and besties of Sixers forward Tobias Harris, had a memorable scene in this years John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. “He a super-nice guy. Very humble, and I remember he paid a lot of attention to detail. He really practiced his lines, and he got a lot of coaching from Keanu. This is like his first movie gig, and he’s quoting Dante’s Inferno, so it was a lot to ask. I give him credit, because that was a long day, and he really held up well and contributed,” said director Chad Stahelski about Marjanović's performance.
“Wow. This is a lot of compliments, he can move, big, tall, looks good,” Marjanović told the Inquirer in response. “Perfect."