Kevin Durant is a ball player. Though he may dabble in rapping and making beats at the studio in his home in the upscale Gaillardia section of Oklahoma City, Durant doesn’t want anyone to think that he has lost focus on what matters most to him: going down as one of the best to ever play the game.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Durant initially was hesitant when his agent, Aaron Goodwin, presented him with a proposal two summers ago to star in a movie. Durant likes movies, but he’d rather watch Denzel Washington or Will Smith than enter their area of expertise.
“I didn’t want to do it,” Durant said in a recent telephone interview. “First, I was like, ‘It’s not me. I’m stepping out of the box a little too much.’ ”
After deciding that this could be an opportunity for him to learn how movies are made, Durant eventually relented. And, with the NBA lockout postponing training camps and canceling 43 preseason games, Durant found himself with enough free time to be in Baton Rouge, La., filming scenes for the Warner Bros. family comedy “Switch.”
When asked if he’s gone Hollywood after winning back-to-back scoring titles and leading the United States to gold at the the world championships in 2010, Durant said, “Nah. I’m good. I’m doing it for fun. That’s all I’m doing it for. I’m not trying to make a career out of it.”
The role Durant has been asked to play in the film won’t require much range, since he will play Kevin Durant, an all-star forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder – who swaps his basketball talents with a young fan. While the fan goes on to become the star of his high school team, Durant becomes a scrub and the Thunder season founders. “It’s going to be funny. It’s going to be cool,” Durant said of the movie.
Comedian Brandon T. Jackson, who starred in “Tropic Thunder,” “Lottery Ticket” and “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,” plays Durant’s agent in the movie and has helped him adjust to filming scenes and delivering lines. “He’s been making it easy so for me. Every time I step on set, it’s been fun. Every time, he gets right into his lines and ad-libbing scenes so it doesn’t seem so scripted,” Durant said. “It’s different. It’s cool. I’m working on my lines, getting them pretty well and pretty quickly. But everybody is making me feel comfortable.”
Durant has had some experience with acting, from the time he filmed a commercial for NBA Live ’08 with former Wizard Gilbert Arenas before his rookie season, to a recent “Back to the Future”-themed Nike commercial with “Saturday Night Live” cast member Bill Hader and Christopher Lloyd. “That was a little different for me,” Durant said. “That was me saying the lines back the way they wanted me to say them. Here it’s more natural.”
Reciting lines has actually been the easiest part of the shoot, since Durant admitted to having problems making shots on cue. He said some scenes that require him to make shots – something he has little trouble doing in a competitive game – took several takes. “They was telling me miss shots, which was pretty easy,” Durant said. “I was trying to make them, but I missed like five or six times in a row. They had to cut, and I had to do it all over again.”
Durant said he spent nearly eight hours shooting one scene in which he walked out of the locker room, greeted fans and spoke with his agent at the same time. “But it’s worth it. At the end of the day, it’s going to look good.”
Although filmmakers secured licensing rights from the NBA, the lockout prohibits them from shooting scenes in NBA facilities or with NBA uniforms until the lockout ends. “I hope we get a deal done and get this thing rolling,” Durant said. “I think somehow, someway, they are going to figure things out.”
Durant would only shoot the film if he was allowed to continue to work on his game. He has been playing regularly with Louisiana State alums Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Ronald Dupree, Anthony Randolph and Marcus Thornton. He will wrap up shooting on Wednesday and return home to celebrate his 23rd birthday with family and friends.
“Space Jam,” “He Got Game,” “Blue Chips” and “Hoosiers” are among Durant’s favorite basketball movies, but he admitted that he also was a fan of the oft-panned Shaquille O’Neal film, “Kazaam.”
“A lot of people didn’t, but I liked it, just because Shaq was in it, I liked it,” said Durant, refusing to offer critiques of most other basketball players turned actors. He was impressed with Ray Allen’s performance in “He Got Game.” “He did real good. I hope I do half as good as he did. I think everybody did a good job. I know how hard it is. So, I can’t say anything about how anybody did. I just wanted to see it through, sometimes you have to go through it your own self.”
Durant knows that his acting skills will be critiqued once the movie is released next year. “Yeah, but at the end of the day, I’m still a basketball player and that’s all I care about,” he said.