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'Hustle' director says Adam Sandler was the one who suggested casting Anthony Edwards, and explains how the NBA star became the movie's scene-stealer
Adam Sandler might be who entices Netflix viewers to click play on "Hustle," but it's Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Anthony Edwards who's going to leave a lasting impression.
In a movie where some of the world's greatest basketball stars basically play themselves, Sandler and "Hustle" director Jeremiah Zagar had a different plan for Edwards.
"Hustle" delves into the nitty-gritty of the modern NBA world as Sandler plays Stanley, a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who discovers a phenom named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez) during an overseas trip. When the 76ers aren't interested in Cruz, Stanley quits the team and decides to risk it all on Cruz by using his league connections to get him drafted to a team.
However, every good sports movie needs a good heel to go up against the hero.
Halfway through the movie, Cruz crosses paths with Kermit Wilts, a top-flight draft prospect who rattles Cruz, thanks to his talent on the court and his vicious trash-talking.
This presented an interesting casting challenge. The person who'd play Wilts didn't just need to be able to ball as well as the Utah Jazz power forward — he'd also have to possess similar acting chops.
"We didn't cast Kermit until the second half of filming," Zagar told Insider over the phone, explaining that the movie was shot over two summers, with the second summer focusing on all the basketball scenes.
"There were a couple of other NBA stars' names thrown around, but when Adam suggest Anthony it just seemed perfect," Zagar added.
Since being drafted by the Timberwolves in 2020, Edwards has quickly become a favorite among NBA fans for his charm and wit during his post-game interviews.
It certainly caught the attention of Sandler.
"I think Adam had been following his press conferences and felt like he has the vibe," Zagar said.
It also helped that Hernangómez was on the Timberwolves during Edwards' rookie season, so they already had chemistry.
But to hone his raw acting talents, Edwards worked with Zagar's longtime acting coach Noelle Gentile, who helped the NBA star get into his character.
However, Zagar said Edwards did not hesitate to make Kermit Wilts his own.
"Anthony would rewrite his lines with Juancho on the day of shooting to make sure they felt like him," he said.
As a result, Edwards became the movie's scene-stealer. He's captivating as the film's antagonist, who goes so far as to talk about Cruz's daughter in the stands to shake him off his game.
Zagar admitted he knew Edwards was gold, even during production.
"There's this shot in the movie that's a oner, where Bo Cruz walks in and meets Kermit for the first time," Zagar recalled. "And the way Anthony was able to deliver his line perfectly every time as that camera moved around is something that seasoned actors have trouble with. So right away you were like, 'Oh my god!'"
Zagar pointed out that, even though some will see Edwards' character as the villain in the movie, he considers him as more than that.
"If Kermit is just a villain he's uninteresting, but if he's an anti-hero, which is how I see him, if he's more like Michael Jordan than some kind of two-dimensional character, he's more exciting. That's what Anthony brought," Zagar said. "That realism and swagger."
"If we were to make a 'Hustle 2' it would be about him," the director added. "That's how I think of it."