We interview Space Jam: A New Legacy director Malcolm D. Lee about working with the film’s cast, the different animation styles, and more.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is the long-awaited sequel to 1996’s breakout hit. Not only has the new film introduced the legendary LeBron James standing where the great Michael Jordan once stood, it’s also given the Looney Tunes themselves a 3D makeover.
Director Malcolm D. Lee spoke to Screen Rant about what his all-star cast, including Iron Man’s Don Cheadle, brought to the film and how they settled on the different animation styles for the cartoon heroes.
LeBron James is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, and it’s only fitting that he fills the role of the star athlete in this film. Can you talk to me about the collaboration process of working with LeBron?
Malcolm D. Lee: LeBron is great. As you said, he transcends sports. From the moment that he came into my consciousness, I was a fan. And he’s great to work with. He takes his job very seriously; he takes his day job very seriously. Before the set call, he would be working out at three o’clock in the morning – getting ready for his upcoming season, which was last year.
He was great to work with: loves to be directed, loves to be silly, and he had a real trust with me that we fostered over the time that we got to work together. So, it was great to work with him.
At the core of Space Jam: A New Legacy is a story about a father and a son. Can you talk to me about the relationship we see between Dom and LeBron, and how that grows throughout the film?
Malcolm D. Lee: That was what attracted me to the project most of all. Besides the Looney Tunes, besides LeBron James, at its core was this father-son story. Being the father of three boys myself, I can very much relate to being a parent who wants the best for their children and wants to help them go in the direction that I went. But they’re gonna have their own personalities; they’re gonna make their own decisions. As a parent, you have to learn to accept that. And that takes a while.
I think that’s why it’s a great message for families, and from parents to children. You do have to let them go at some point. You guide them, but at some point, you’ve got to let them be who they’re going to be.
Don Cheadle plays Al G. Rhythm, and he is so much fun to watch in this film. Can you talk to me about what he brought to the role that wasn’t necessarily on the page?
Malcolm D. Lee: You hit the nail on the head. Don is a great professional, and he’s a great actor. Number one: he brings pathos, he brings humor, he brings a credibility to a role like this – which was not, as you said, really on the page.
We tried a lot of different iterations of Al G. Rhythm, trying to figure out who he was. With Don – not only being a great actor but a great producer, great director, and great writer himself – we were able to find that happy medium with him. It took us a while, but we found it. And Don was great to work with from the beginning to the end.
There are different styles of animation in this film, from the classic 2D look to digital. Can you talk to me about the different influences of animation we see in Space Jam: A New Legacy?
Malcolm D. Lee: I was glad we were able to mix up the styles with this movie, because I love the 2D animation and the pencil drawings. The charm that you see there is hard to capture and hard to beat. And we had a long time before we had to figure it out.
There was a lot of back and forth and development in figuring out how to translate that from 2D to 3D, and we wanted that to be part of the fabric of our story. One of the messages of our movie is “be yourself,” and the Tunes are not being themselves – or being forced to be something els – in the movie, you know due to Al G Rhythm. So, we were able to use that.
I think audiences want to see the classic Tunes stuff, but they also want to see new iterations of it as well. They’ve been used to it at this point. Pixar has elevated the game in such a way that 3D animation is almost the thing that you expect out of animation these days. To be able to give the Tunes that treatment was a real special treat for me.
- Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)Release date: Jul 16, 2021
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