When LeBron James announced last September that he was finally tackling the highly anticipated Space Jam sequel with Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler producing and indie visionary Terence Nance directing, it was clear he had assembled an all star lineup.
Nance, whose explosive creativity came to TV last year on HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness, is an intriguing wild card considering everything he touches turns to trippy, socially conscious gold. Much like Space Jam, Nance’s work breaks free of the confines of conventional video. He regularly mixes animation, claymation, and really any back-bending technique together to create new visual worlds. But he’s usually tackling less kid-friendly topics such as white supremacy, police violence, non-monogamous relationships, and toxic masculinity, especially as a gender non-conforming person. So naturally, when I caught up with him for a story about his mind-boggling DIY career, I asked if he had plans to shake up traditional conceptions of masculinity with Space Jam 2. “Pretty sure [it's] going to disrupt everything,” he told me in the fall of last year. “I’m excited about what […] that movie can be.”
It appears that James is also looking to make a larger statement with the project. He told Hollywood Reporter last year that the empowering messages in Black Panther inspired him to get more serious about pursuing the sequel. And aside from the original movie's message to not give up on your dreams, there are other threads a deep-thinking director like Nance could tease out—especially considering the original Monstars were trying to enslave the Looney Tunes.
According to Nance, he’d been spreading the word that he wanted to direct the movie long before Ryan Coogler officially contacted him about it. “Space Jam is a very unique opportunity because LeBron James is the best basketball player on Earth and a once in a generation performer,” Nance explained to me. “Whoever the greatest basketball player of the next generation is going to be, they are probably not going to also be a great actor.” Plus, he added, “Growing up being an animator, someone who loves to draw, I’m just super enthused to work in the cannon, learning in a more deep way about it, bringing what I bring from a media innovation standpoint.”
Nance has been surprising audiences since his first feature film, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, went from a budgetless project for an NYU film class to a smash hit at Sundance Film Festival in 2011. And his late-night show Random Acts of Flyness is essentially a testament to the the limitless creative potential of a black artist community when given the resources to actualize their own vision. In my recent profile, Nance shares that he didn't have to make a lane for himself in Hollywood. Instead he focused on the talent and stories in his community until a lane appeared. Now, with Nance behind the wheel of an estimated $100 million budget for Space Jam 2, there's no telling what kind of layered, explosively black phenomenon we'll be graced with when the franchise returns.
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