Should they go in? What are the odds? It’s not even a real run?
A pair of 24-year-olds, Bryan Daniel, of Newark, Del., and his high school friend, Darren Moore, leaned against the hood of Moore’s Honda Saturday, deciding whether to join the long line of geared-up basketball players at the other end of the parking lot outside the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington.
“I found out about this on social media,” Daniel said. “Once the news got out, I figured there were going to be a lot of people here.”
This wasn’t a tryout in any typical sense. It was a casting call for basketball players to appear as extras in an Adam Sandler Netflix film being shot this year around Philadelphia.
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“I was expecting to work out for 45 minutes,” Daniel said. “Now they’re saying they’re doing three-on-three for five minutes, and when they see people they want, they stop it.”
Judging from the line, the odds of being cast in the film as an NBA player might not be all that different from actually making the NBA.
There was no bait-and-switch here. The casting call was specific. Nobody younger than 18 or older than 33. If you’re older than 30, you had to “appear younger than 30, or you will not be cast.” Males only. Philly locals only. “For a BACKGROUND, NON-SPEAKING role. Tryouts will be VERY short. Build: LONG & LEAN or BIG & STRONG. Height: MUST BE 6′4”+ … Former D1/D2 basketball players or overseas pros.”
“Can’t go in together. ... We have to be like six people apart,” Daniel said of his friend, figuring they were only going to take one player at most from any one pickup game. His goal, he said, is to get to the actual NBA, not the Netflix version.
He’d done his Googling. … The movie is called Hustle. Queen Latifah is in it, too. LeBron James is one of the producers. Kyle Lowry is listed in the cast.
“He’s supposed to be a scout, helping an overseas player get to the NBA,’' Daniel said of Sandler’s role.
Daniel said to his friend, “You feel like going in? I’m not worried about what I can do. It’s just, I know they’re looking for what they’re looking for.”
A car pulled up. The pair had gone to middle school with Freddy, who had played some college ball. He was on his way out.
“There are so many people in there, it doesn’t even seem like they’re interested,’' Freddy told them. “Trying to shuffle in so many people. That was my take. They’re separating you by court based on experience. That’s how I interpreted it. I could be wrong. I had a couple of buckets but didn’t have a chance to play that much. But I was in the area. Something to do. Get a little exposure.”
Dante Whipple, 25, from Old Bridge, N.J., just out of the gym after his “tryout,” said he had about two minutes to warm up, play for five minutes, then go to a camera and say your name and your height.
“They instructed us to not really go too hard and foul each other on defense,” Whipple said. “It was more how we play.”
Inside, a taller man walked off the court from his little session, changed out of his playing shoes.
Mike Fisher, the basketball coordinator for the movie, walked over to him.
“This is what we’re looking for,” Fisher said.
C.J. Aiken, former St. Joseph’s Hawks center, a pro in Hungary this past season, had heard about this casting call “one random day” from his wife’s aunt, who had seen something on Facebook.
“Couple of dunks, couple of blocks, couple of jump shots, did my thing,” Aiken said of his quick turn on the court.
There is a scene with street players, Fisher said, but for the majority of the movie, they want NBA-looking players.
His own experience includes working in a similar role with movies ranging from the new Space Jam movie back to Remember the Titans, Blind Side, Moneyball. He does a lot of Nike commercials.
“We know Philadelphia is a basketball-crazy community, as you can see today,” Fisher said. “We’re trying to find that rare gem. For this movie, you’re trying to find guys who are maybe overseas, back in town.”
Maybe Aiken doesn’t make it through the casting net all the way to the movie.
“I would say C.J. has a pretty good chance,” Fisher said. “6-[foot-]9, can play.”
The casting continues sometimes to the day before a scene is shot.
“We never stop,” Fisher said. “It’s like, we’re out fishing. We’re on that boat. Everybody might have pulled up their line, but I just leave my line in the water until we get back to the dock.”
Fisher was talking just outside the gym, the line of ballplayers still impressive in length. An Adam Sandler movie was always going to attract a crowd. The success of Sandler’s last one, Uncut Gems, probably added to the attraction.
“We’ve kind of got a foolproof system,” Fisher said of the casting session. “There’s zero hanging around.”
He looked over to the line of hopefuls. He wants them all to feel like they gotten a fair shot.
“I see that kid in the red T-shirt over there with his head down,” Fisher said, scanning the line to see if anyone else out there looked the part. “He might …”