Matthew Dellavedova Is Getting A Biopic. Let's Cast It.
There's no real reason to make a movie about the NBA's chippiest Aussie backup. But Hollywood is doing it anyway, so let's help fill out the cast.
When you see the foreign box office projections. Photo by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
It is not an easy thing, being a Hollywood executive. Admittedly the part where you have many hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on yourself, drugs, and your family is not difficult and is in fact insanely good. But the stress of it all! You commit millions of dollars to a story not just because you think the story might be an interesting film, but because it might become a film that many millions of people around the world would want to see. Not just adventurous or gullible or brand-loyal people in American cities, either, but other people in Manila and Delhi and Stuttgart and Guangzhou. You have never met these people and most likely never will, and you know nothing about what they actually like, beyond a demonstrated past affinity for explosions and broad racial humor and for whatever reason Mark Wahlberg.
Which is to say that you know nothing, mostly—nothing about the people to whom you are trying to sell your movies, and nothing much about what makes them want to see movies in general. Most studios, in this position, follow research and past trends more than any legible storytelling instinct, which is why two out of every three films in theaters is based on a comic book and amount to a white dude in a garish helmet grimly saying things like, "I don't think so, Professor Alligator." These stories have already been told two or three or three dozen times; much is known about them, and so a decent amount can be guessed about how they'll do. That's why we get the bummy-ass movies we get, but it's also why it's such a pleasant surprise to learn that the life story of Aussie backup point guard and everything-to-everyone gritlord Matthew Dellavedova has been optioned by a pair of accomplished film producers. It's not that Dellavedova's life would necessarily make for a better movie than, say, Ish Smith's or Shelvin Mack's; we can assume that, on the screen as on the court, they'd be about the same. But while the lives of most backup point guards would probably make for interesting movies, it's mostly just nice to hear about a movie project that is authentically inexplicable.
Of course, this doesn't mean that we'll definitely get to see a movie about the life of the undrafted St. Mary's mouthguard-aficionado turned well-regarded NBA irritant/backcourt reserve; it's a complicated industry, there are many logistical rivers yet to cross, and the producers might just wind up making The Beno Udrih Story instead if they get the right tax incentives. But some people are at least going to try to bring this goofball's story to life on film. The least we can do is help them out.
If these producers are looking for the right combination of energy and unconventional facial structure for the lead role in this film, the solution is clear: you go back in time and bring back Scottish character actor Ewen Bremner from around the time that he played Spud in Trainspotting. Get him working with an accent coach, throw him in the gym with Tim Grover for a month or so, and teach him how to knee people while emotionally making the case to a ref that he would never knee someone. Basically this performance, except Spud's in a basketball jersey and David Blatt is standing nearby looking deeply depressed.
Problem is, Hollywood is notoriously cheap about using the time travel technology that it's had at its disposal for the last decade or so; if asked, they'll even deny they have it. So we will need to cast an actor who exists in this moment, and who can do the role justice.
To sell this role properly you need a bankable and age-appropriate star with the same Faintly Sketchy Trader Joe's Employee vibe that has made Dellavedova so beloved a figure. Luckily, there's one who fits the bill perfectly. I present to you Ansel Elgort, star of (hold on, just confirming that dude was indeed one of the stars of The Shitty Version Of The Hunger Games Franchise) Divergent, and its sequels Divergent: Insurgent, Divergent: Allegiant, Divergent: Codependent, and Divergent: Cromulent, all of which were released in Europe and Asia as A Hungry Game in hopes of fooling less detail-oriented filmgoers. If you are a 15-year-old girl, and the data we have on VICE Sports' readership suggests there's about a two-in-three chance that you are, you already know who Ansel Elgort is. If you are not, or if you don't, here is the guy in question.
Before we go any further, it's worth addressing the obvious question surrounding this decision: did the kids that liked The Hunger Games make fun of the kids that liked Divergent in the cafeteria? The answer is almost certainly yes, but teenagers are awful and they would have made fun of those kids for something or other. The other big question is whether Elgort would be able to handle the basketball demands of playing Matthew Dellavedova—tripping guys, looking incredulous at foul calls, tossing up floaters, bothering opponents, and generally looking like an exhausted werewolf a lot of the time. Here we are in luck, because your man 'Gort is a certified ballaholic. Here is Elgort getting his in the 2015 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, where he proved to be a problem.
Yes, Elgort is probably a better fit for the still-in-turnaround Luke Babbitt biopic, but we are not casting that movie right now and the important thing is that we now have an above-the-title star for our story. It's the guy from Divergent: Redundant and that's settled. But that's not the end of the story, or the end of our task.
Basketball is a team sport, and it's impossible to tell Matthew Dellavedova's story without also telling the story of the people that helped him get where he is today, which is literally Milwaukee, but figuratively much further than anyone could have expected he would go in the game. Dellavedova's story is also the story of his coaches—Randy Bennett, who recruited him to St. Mary's; David Blatt, who gave him a chance in Cleveland; Tyronn Lue, who helped him get a ring; Jason Kidd, who saw tens of millions of dollars in potential—and the teammates who helped him reach the apex of the sport. LeBron James we can assume will be happy to play himself, both as a personal favor to his buddy Delly and to continue to advance his longstanding and weirdly underreported career rivalry with Mike Epps. Here are some thoughts on how to fill out the rest of the cast.
The St. Mary's coach has built his team into a mid-major power by recruiting Australian players like Dellavedova and Patty Mills. As the person who helped get Delly started in the states, he'll play a big part in the film. The role is perfect for the veteran character actor Michael Gaston, a blue-chip That Guy, From The Thing with a knack for balancing decency with a certain unmistakable sharkishness. It's a trait he shares with your average college basketball coach.
There's a movie to be made just about David Blatt, honestly, although as it would focus on an ultra-driven and relentlessly standoffish man in a suit who drives others away with the force of his difficulty, it would have to have been made by David Mamet before he got really into conservative talk radio and men's rights, and we've already been over how stingy Hollywood is with time travel technology. So, per the usual show business best practices for Inspired By True Events movies, let's just someone who is shorter and much more handsome than the actual person upon which the role is based. Get Stanley Tucci a wig and let's do this.
You've noticed so far that this is a fairly straightforward if exceptionally well-cast sports movie, which is fine as far as it goes. But there needs to be some sort of wrinkle, a teamwork that goes beyond the brotherhood of getting up some extra shots after practice. I propose, here, a subplot in which Dellavedova and his large former teammate Timofey Mozgov become friends, and solve mysteries involving stolen artifacts. The most natural fit for the role of Timofey Mozgov is A Heavily CGI'ed Haley Joel Osment, so let's just do that.
I understand that this is a bad idea, but James Franco really wants this part and the producers believe that foreign audiences like him. So it's Franco. I know.
Kidd's role will be small but pivotal in the film, as Dellavedova's contract with the Bucks serves, as much as the ring he wins with the Cavaliers, as proof that he has made it. Kidd's a tough role to cast, because his combination of intense virtuosity and abject horniness is a heavy lift for any actor. Luckily Pitbull, the rapper and Twitter Motivator, has the same traits and looks passably like Kidd. That's a photo of Pitbull up there, actually, and not Jason Kidd. You probably didn't even notice! Looks like the movie magic is already doing its stuff.