Hustle Director Jeremiah Zagar on How His Mom’s Feedback Altered the Film

With Hustle now streaming on Netflix, I recently got to speak with director Jeremiah Zagar about making his first big movie. Written by Taylor Materne and Will Fetters, Hustle is about a road weary Philadelphia 76ers scout (Adam Sandler) who discovers an incredible player off the grid in Spain (Juancho Hernangómez) and their journey to proving to everyone that he belongs in the NBA. The film also stars Queen Latifah, Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards, Ben Foster, Kenny Smith, Jordan Hull, Maria Botto, Ainhoa Pillet, Raul Castillo, Jaleel White, Heidi Gardner and Robert Duvall.

During the interview, Zagar talked about what surprised him abut working with Netflix and Sandler, how he worked with cinematographer Zak Mulligan on the aesthetic of the film, why they made sure every basketball game had its own look, what camera rigs they built to take the audience inside the games, which NBA players surprised him with their acting ability, and filming in Philadelphia. In addition, he reveals how his mom’s feedback altered the edit.

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Check out what Zagar had to say in the player above and below is exactly what we talked about followed by the synopsis. For more on Hustle, read Ross’s review.

Jeremiah Zagar

  • What surprised him about making his first big movie and working with Adam Sandler?
  • How did he work with his cinematographer Zak Mulligan on the aesthetic of the film and deciding on the color palette?
  • How they watched every sports film and basketball film before shooting.
  • How they made every basketball film have its own look and vibe.
  • What they built to try and get the audience inside the game.
  • What did they learn from early test screenings that impacted the finished film?
  • How his mom’s notes after seeing the film changed the structure of the film by front loading how miserable Sandler’s character was being on the road.
  • What would have happened if Philadelphia 76ers had said no to being in the film?
  • What real locations from Philadelphia did he include in the film?
  • Which NBA player surprised him with their acting ability?


Here’s the official synopsis for Hustle:

Stanley Sugerman’s (Adam Sandler) love for basketball is unparalleled, but the travel weary Philadelphia 76ers scout who has higher ambitions of being a coach remains stuck on the road looking for the next unknown talent. His search around the world leads him to Spain, when he discovers Bo Cruz (NBA player Juancho Hernangómez), an incredible streetball player with a troubled past. Stanley and Bo connect on and off the court, with their passion for the game and as loving family men who want to prove they can win, in basketball and in life. With the support of Stanley’s wife, Teresa (Queen Latifah), can the underdogs come out on top?

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