How Hustle Sets the Stage for a Major NFL Movie

With Netflix’s release of hustle, starring Adam Sandler as a professional scout who takes his talents overseas in search of an unknown talent, they filled a void that the world didn’t even know was there: enjoyable and believable sports movies. With more athletes dipping their toes in the world of acting and entertainment, the possibilities for great cinema featuring some of the world’s most recognizable stars are a clear reality. hustle saw the opportunity and seized it by the throat, staking its claim as one of the best basketball movies of all time.


hustle has plenty of star power, a video game-like underdog story that rallies the audience, and strong performances from both its seasoned actors and its NBA appearances. All the spectacle paid off handsomely, as the film drew 84.5 million hours from viewers in one of its best weeks, landing as Netflix’s number-one movie and doubling the viewership of the second-place flick that week (via Yahoo Sports). It’s clear that there’s an untapped market for movies in hustle‘s mould, sports stories with major production backing featuring some of the world’s biggest stars. The path has been laid out, and it’s high time that the NFL jumps on the opportunity that hustle created and brings some of the country’s biggest football stars onto the silver screen.

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Hustle’s Formula and Success

Netflix

hustle succeeded in a number of areas where other sports movies failed. The most notable difference is that director Jeremiah Zagar clearly wanted to pay proper homage to the game that he was depicting on the silver screen, according to NPR: “…it centered around the sport of basketball, which I love. And so, you know, I started to think about ways in which I could make it mine and could make it something that I could fall in love with. And I got back on the phone with Adam and we talked about it and we seemed aligned. We wanted. to work with all non-professional actors and we wanted to shoot it in a way that felt authentic to both the city and to the sport, and give it a realism that I was excited by.”

Zagar would go on to detail how he wanted his film to appeal to NBA fans, giving them a cinematic experience that they could get behind that felt realistic when stacked up against the real on-court product, which inspired him to bring as much professional hoops talent onto the project as he could: “…Juancho was a real NBA player. He plays for the Utah Jazz. And, you know, he’s incredible as an actor too. But he can really play basketball beautifully, as can Anthony Edwards , as can Kenny Smith as can Dr. J, obviously. So these are real people that know the sport intimately. So you’re seeing them do the thing they love the most in the world in a beautiful, cinematic way.”

Related: How Hustle Stands Out From Every Other Adam Sandler and Happy Madison Production

There’s little doubt that all of these pros that were involved would allow the movie to depict the sport in a ridiculous fashion. There’s also no doubt that most of the viewers who saw hustle came upon the film through their love of basketball. Had it shown unrealistic or cartoonish gameplay, many fans would have scoffed at it, regardless of how well the rest of the elements were executed. Some may disagree, but hustle is evidence that it may be easier to teach an athlete to act, rather than try to morph a thespian into a ball player.

hustle‘s believable depiction of the sport coupled with the sheer magnitude of the star power that the NBA cameos brought made it a must-see movie for lovers of the game. To ensure that it would succeed as a film, Sandler portrayed the lead, Stanley Sugerman, guaranteeing that the story would translate onto the silver screen, as Sandler’s combination of acting chops and adoration for basketball made it easy for viewers to buy into the protagonist’s journey . This formula also played a part in the successes of Coach Carter — starring Toronto Raptor’s fan Samuel L. Jackson — and Remember the Titans — which features Dallas Cowboys follower Denzel Washington. Any future sports movie that hopes to reach the heights of hustle would be wise to cast a buff in whatever sport they’re hoping to capture as the lead.

Potential Opportunity for an NFL Movie

hustle netflix
Netflix

Now that hustle has been cemented into sports movie history, it’s laid out a path for an NFL movie of a similar mold to be brought to life. After all, basketball may be making waves globally, but football still reigns supreme in the United States. The average viewership for NFL games puts every other sport in America to shame. Fans of the game can’t seem to get enough content either, as HBO’s hard knocks — a documentary series that follows a different team’s journey through the offseason and preseason each year — has been wildly successful since 2001. There’s no doubt that a big budget feature film about professional football with plenty of appearances from some of the country’s favorite players would be a smashing success.

If it were to follow the formula that hustle has blueprinted, there’s no reason that an NFL version of the movie wouldn’t make a killing at the box office or in streaming and could possibly land among the best football films of all time. There’s certainly a market for it and a void that needs to be filled, as there hasn’t been a truly great football movie made since the blind side was released in 2009 — some would consider draft day which shows very little football and displays a very unrealistic portrayal of the NFL draft process.

Related: Hustle Review: Adam Sandler Shines in a Superb Sports Drama

NFL Movie Fan Casting

Adam Sandler in Hustle
Netflix

Perhaps the most important part of hustle‘s success, at least in terms of bringing in viewers, was the promise of plenty of fans’ favorite athletes making appearances. Any NFL venture of the same ilk would need to ensure that there’s a multitude of high-profile ballers tied to the project. Luckily, there are plenty of both former and active players who have experience in movies and television to be recruited. Dan Marino was excellent in Ace Ventura: Pet DetectiveMike Ditka played well off of Will Ferrell in kicking & screamingand there are dozens of players who have extensive experience in front of the camera from their time on hard knocks.

Of course, the movie can’t just cast former athletes who have silver screen experience, as they’ll need some current fan favorites to sell the movie. All-Pro players who appeal to audiences like Aaron Donald, Patrick Mahomes, and Derrick Henry should be locked for such a project, as their star power will bring a regality to the movie like Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young did for hustle.

Most importantly, the film would need a strong experienced actor in the lead like Sandler, and an athlete to co-star while convincingly playing the game on camera. Perhaps Paul Rudd — a famous Kansas City Chiefs fan who even did the narration for their season of hard knocks — would be willing to bring some of his charm and humor to a football movie. A great pick for his mentee de él and a possible athlete-turned-movie-star would be Jalen Hurts. The current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has won the city, and the nation, over, leading his team to the top of their division with MVP-level play. He has a face made for the camera, and a real-life underdog story that he should be able to channel into a powerful performance in a sports drama.

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