[Kevin Garnett, Courtesy of A24]
In the Safdie brothers' UNCUT GEMS, the fate of unlucky jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) hinges on a rare stone and an NBA star. Kevin Garnett plays himself in the drama, and the role is much more than a cameo.
From the beginning, the Safdie brothers knew whoever they recruited would help shape the story, which is based on their father's retellings of his time working in New York City's Diamond District. Over 10 years, they looked at various basketball players, from Amar’e Stoudemire who "revitalized the Knicks" to Kobe Bryant.
"Every time you change the basketball player, the feelings of the movie change — the inspiration for the connection to the gem changes, the game changes, the bet changes, and Howard’s interaction with the player changes," the Safdie brothers said.
[Adam Sandler, Courtesy of A24]
Eventually, they landed on the 76ers' Joel Embiid, but it was impossible to shoot the movie with an active player. "Kevin Garnett’s name was on the list, but we hated Garnett from being Knicks’ fans," they joked.
Any bad feelings were quickly squashed after the Safdies talked to Garnett the first time. "Kevin was just magnetic on the phone. His inspiration for playing, his inspiration for just life, it’s infectious."
Garnett was a fan of the brothers, too, having connected with their documentary LENNY COOKE, which follows the life of a former high school basketball player.
[(L-R) Kevin Garnett, Lakeith Stanfield, Adam Sandler. Photo by Wally McGrady]
Their partnership seems to have been a perfect match, and the scenes with Garnett and Sandler are arguably the most enjoyable and comedic. If you haven't seen UNCUT GEMS in theatres yet, get your tickets now at your nearest AMC.