fbpx
Telegram

The Shining Cast of Shooting Stars Discuss the LeBron James Biopic – TheFantasyTimes

Photo of author

By Jitin Gambhir

The Shining Cast of Shooting Stars Discuss the LeBron James Biopic



Shooting Stars is a captivating movie set in the 1990s that tells a true story about LeBron James, a famous NBA basketball player, and movie producer, and his childhood friends from Akron, Ohio. The film features Marquis “Mookie” Cook, in his screen acting debut, as James, Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things as ‘Lil Dru, Avery “AJ” Wills Jr. from Swagger as Willie McGee, Khalil Everage from Cobra Kai as Sian Cotton, and Sterling “Scoot” Henderson as Romeo Travis, also in his screen acting debut.

Directed by Emmy and Grammy award-winning director Chris Robinson, Shooting Stars is a unique film that pays homage to the game of basketball while highlighting the importance of teamwork. The group of friends’ coach at their soon-to-be high school suggests that Lil’ Dru will have to play on junior varsity, which isolates him from his varsity-bound friends due to his lack of height. However, Lil’ Dru spearheads a plan to take his and his friend’s talents to St. Vincent-St. Mary, coached by Keith Dambrot, played by Dermot Mulroney, and eventually also by Coach Dru Joyce, Lil’ Dru’s father, played by Wood Harris.

As a team, they made sports history by leading St. Vincent-St. Mary to two state championships and a national title. Beyond the court, the gentlemen, together with their coaches, remain close friends to this day, and there is a strong indication that the cast will repeat a similar stretch of camaraderie.

In an exclusive interview with MovieWeb, the talented cast sat down to discuss the confidence it took to suit up for their roles, the mental and fun aspects of the production experience, and the added value and appreciation for a hometown advantage. Caleb McLaughlin’s performance as Lil’ Dru is particularly dynamic, thanks to his instrumental role as the compass leader of the group. Lil’ Dru is so driven and focused that he has near tunnel vision on the goal. McLaughlin’s portrayal of him is exhilarating to watch, and the character’s determination to succeed is evident through his eyes.

Marquis “Mookie” Cook makes his screen acting debut in the leading role as LeBron James himself. He bears a remarkable resemblance to James and captured an astonishing amount of James’ mannerisms off of the court and his signature style of play on the court. Despite an extensive Hollywood casting search, Cook, then a Junior at AZ Compass Prep School in Chandler, Arizona, wasn’t a trained actor. Instead, he was an experienced basketball player who also showed that he could act.

Shooting Stars is a film about friendship, loyalty, perseverance, and sacrifice, with touching, uplifting, and often humorous themes. The film highlights the importance of teamwork, and how the slaying of egos for the sake of winning is essential to success. The story traces the friendship back to when the athletes were very young and journeys on to the pinnacle of their history-making success as a group, which happened in high school.

In conclusion, Shooting Stars is a must-watch film that tells an inspiring true story of friendship, teamwork, and perseverance. Directed by Chris Robinson, the film features a talented cast that delivers exceptional performances, with Caleb McLaughlin and Marquis “Mookie” Cook standing out. The film pays homage to the sport of basketball while shining a spotlight on the most significant part of the game, teammates. It is a touching, uplifting, and often humorous film that will leave audiences feeling motivated and inspired.

Set in the 1990s, Shooting Stars is a real-life basketball story about NBA basketball player and movie producer LeBron James and his friends growing up in Akron, Ohio. With touching, uplifting, and often humorous, themes about friendship, loyalty, perseverance, and sacrifice, it stars Marquis “Mookie” Cook (in his screen acting debut) as James, Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things) as ‘Lil Dru, Avery “AJ” Wills Jr. (Swagger) as Willie McGee, Khalil Everage (Cobra Kai) as Sian Cotton, and Sterling “Scoot” Henderson as Romeo Travis (also in his screen acting debut).

MOVIEWEB VIDEO OF THE DAYSCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

x

Directed by Emmy and Grammy award-winning director, Chris Robinson, (ATL, Grown-ish), Shooting Stars pays homage to the sport of basketball while simultaneously shining a spotlight on the most significant part of the game — teammates.

The coach at the group of friend’s soon-to-be high school suggests that he is going to put Lil’ Dru on junior varsity, callously isolating him from his varsity-bound friends for his lack of height. Lil’ Dru, in a testament to his maturity and inner grit, pivots and spearheads an effective plan to take his and his freinds’ talents to St. Vincent-St. Mary. They developed under the initial guidance of Coach Keith Dambrot (played by Dermot Mulroney) and, as a team, made sports history by leading St.Vincent-St. Mary to two state championships and a national title. The real-life basketball players’ success exceeded the court, however.

The gentlemen (and their coaches) remain close friends to this day, and there is a strong indication that the cast will repeat a similar stretch of camaraderie. In an exclusive interview with MovieWeb, the incredibly talented and down-to-earth cast sat down to discuss the confidence it took to suit up for their roles, the mental and fun aspects of the production experience, and the added value and appreciation for a home-town advantage.


Caleb McLaughlin as the Unsung (Until Now) Supernova Lil’ Dru Joyce

Shooting Stars traces the friendship back to when the athletes were very young and journeys on to the pinnacle of their history-making success as a group, which happened in high school. While the theme is clearly friendship and how the slaying of egos for the sake of winning is essential to winning, there is one friend, in particular, who played a vital role in the way things played out.

Thanks to the fortitude of Lil’ Dru, arguably the MVP of the group of friends, they remained united in solidarity and played together at St. Vincent-St. Mary where they were couched by Keith Dambrot, and eventually also Coach Dru Joyce (Lil’ Dru’s father played by Wood Harris of the Creed franchise).

Arguably the most dynamic performance in the movie, thanks to his instrumental role as the compass leader of the group, Lil Dru is played by Caleb McLaughlin in a way that is exhilarating to watch. The character is so driven and focused and such a ravenous leader that he has near tunnel vision on the goal. It’s evident with just one glimpse into McLaughlin’s eyes — which are so present and focused — that the young man who portrays Lil’ Dru shares both character and physical traits with him. He’s the shortest among, to be fair, some really tall guys, and that literally doesn’t stop him.

Mulroney, the man who played his coach, echoed the same. “I was so touched by Caleb [McLaughlin] because he was so open to me, and he’s such an accomplished young man, as you know, and he worked so closely with his teammates and with our brilliant director Chris Robinson. I just never saw a moment when he wasn’t working. I can’t even finish describing him without talking about his actual game because he can really play.”.

Related: Shooting Stars Review: A Slam Dunk for LeBron James and Friends

In a sizzling behind the scenes reveal, Mulroney also shared:

You know in the movie, during that game when they had to win and Lil’ Dru started popping three-pointers? That happened in real life. That game was a real game where Lil’ Dru caught fire and started to play and won the game for the team. The entire crowd of extras, just everybody, the crew, we were all just losing it with excitement every time he drained another shot. Caleb actually did that. It was real.

Managing the Pressure of LeBron James

Shooting Stars
Universal Pictures 

It would seem that McLaughlin having to deliver on so many levels, athletically, mentally, emotionally, and technically, would have created an unattainable peak of effort. Yet, he had quite a telling answer when asked about a quote in the film. Coach Dru said to the team of friends, “How successful you become is determined by how well you manage the pressure.” It is evident from McLaughlin’s performance, and his cast members’ sentiments about him, that he managed quite well. McLaughlin reflected on why it is that he doesn’t flinch at any sign of difficulty:

Pressure breaks pipes, yes, but even more than that, in order for a diamond to be created pressure needs to be there. So, it can go either way. To create that life, that goal, or to be a diamond, or to be great, you need pressure. Everything can’t be easy.

In particular reference to his determination to deliver against any pressure for James’ film, and in a display of a mindset that has likely championed the actor through his very accomplished career at such a young age, McLaughlin added, “It’s almost like the line in a movie that says ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, which is what Uncle Ben said to Spider-Man. LeBron is like a superhero, like a Spider-Man, a Superman, to a lot of people out here. I knew that for me to be great, for anyone to be great, we need pressure. It needs to happen in order to be great.”

Pass the Ball to Mookie Cook

Shooting Stars LeBron James
Universal Pictures

Equally impressive is the young man who portrays King James himself. Marquis “Mookie” Cook makes his screen acting debut in the leading role and added his position to the discussion of pressure as the one chosen to depict James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, champion, and Olympic Gold Medalist.

“Ultimately, I just try to look at it like there’s no pressure with anything I do. It’s life at the end of the day. I just choose to commit to try my best at whatever it is and however it comes out, it comes out. If it’s a bad result, I just have to bounce back the next day.”

Cook’s performance was far from a bad result. He bears a remarkable resemblance to James and captured an astonishing amount of James’ mannerisms off of the court and his signature style of play on the court. Fans will recognize the resemblance and the authenticity and appreciate it. Plus, Cook’s acting was so on target. James may have been the most famous among the group but, also among the group, he was just one of the guys. Cook seemed either well-guided or naturally aware of this delicate balance and found a nice groove in all the scenes. He kept a steady rhythm of not trying to outshine his friends and yet being comfortable with the fact that his presence, even as kids, was palpably great.

Related:Exclusive: Director Chris Robinson On How He Helped Get Shooting Stars to Soar

Interestingly, despite an extensive Hollywood casting search, Cook, then a Junior at AZ Compass Prep School in Chandler, Arizona wasn’t a trained actor. Instead, he was an experienced basketball player who also showed that, if given the shot, he could act. Not only was he perfect for the role, he knew James. While in the eighth grade, he had played youth basketball with, Bronny, James’ oldest son. For obvious reasons, being a great basketball player wasn’t enough to be selected to star in such a hugely coveted role. Cook’s acting skills matched his gifted athleticism, and he scored the shot.

Now, at 18 years old, Cook who will continue his basketball aspirations at the University of Oregon in the fall, best summed up how he adapted to any organic pressures of taking on such a monumental role of someone that he, and fans around the worlds, so deeply admire. In his acting debut, surely that had to be some fear? “Don’t ever forget,” said Cook, “the pressure that is put upon you, God would never put it on you if you can’t handle it.”

A Healthy Competition Among Teammates and the Cast?

Shooting Stars
Universal Pictures 

McLaughlin shared that he can relate to the real-life character of Dru. “Going into the film, I didn’t realize — besides loving basketball — how much more I could relate to Dru. But I eventually saw how, on a personal level, we both have a competitive nature. Dru and I are both just competitive. He loved proving people wrong, and I felt that. How he responds to things? That’s exactly how I feel. When people try to pull me down or throw negativity at me and think that’s gonna work? No! That only builds me up.”

As a testament to Dru’s character and McLaughlin’s portrayal, that confidence pivot wasn’t self-centered. In a remarkable balance of realistic and healthy competition, both individuals possessed an innate sense that while, yes, they were individually talented, they were also only as strong and effective if they were part of a united team. Both on and off the court (and film set), everyone played their winning position accordingly.

Although Dru was the spark that ignited history and the Teflon-like glue that kept the friends bonded as a team all the way through high school, it was James’ effortless presence and natural magnetism, as the break-out basketball star, that kept the public’s attention on the journey.

Cook shared how he, too, can relate to James’ role. “Definitely, as a kid growing up, I have always kinda been the best at basketball just like LeBron. I was also so much taller than everybody, and yet I could still dribble. Just the pressures of growing up and always being the best at whatever he was doing, I can also relate.”

Related: Best Sports Biopics of All Time, Ranked

His observations of personal parallels to James’ life extend even more significantly beyond basketball. “Like LeBron, just knowing that you always have to stay level-headed no matter what, that is important. You can definitely see that if LeBron wasn’t level-headed, he wouldn’t be at the level of success where he is now. I feel like I carry that same type of leadership. I’m also kinda laid back, too, like him, but if things need to be said, I know how to say it in the right way.”

So what about the rest of the team? Could there possibly be more amazing characters in this story? In short, yes. There is a reason why James co-wrote the best-selling book Shining Stars, in which this film was adapted from. He didn’t focus on a book (or a movie) only about himself, but instead chose to lift up his team. James knows, and readily shined a spotlight on, the fact that he didn’t reach his basketball and life successes alone. In addition to Dru’s, there were more players in this outstanding true story.

A Fab 5 Cast

Shooting Stars
Universal Pictures 

Rounding out the cast of starting players and best friends, in this depiction of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Fab Five, are also Avery Willis Jr.(Willie), Khalil Everage (Sian), and Scoot Henderson (Romeo). In addition to great acting, all the actors, first, met the requirements of being great basketball players.

Mulroney confirmed this by noting, “I want to make sure that everybody realizes that when they watch Shooting Stars there aren’t any stunt doubles. Those young athlete-actors are actually playing each of those games. Each of those plays, it’s all real. It’s the best basketball playing you’ll ever see in a narrative film.” So, too, was the realism of the unmistakable chemistry among the solid ensemble of actors.

Related: The Best Movies Featuring an Ensemble Cast, Ranked

Everage, who delivered some of the most charming and memorable lines in the film, reflected on how, as a cast, they were able to achieve such a cohesive connection during the three months in which they filmed in Akron and Cleveland Ohio:

We kicked it with each other all day. We had hotel rooms right next to each other, and we were all on the same floor. It was like a month before shooting, before we even shot a scene, and that whole time we just kicked it. During the day we had training and rehearsals, but in the evenings we would just kick back together. Just play the 2K [NBA video] game…

Wills, who showed such impressive constraint in the anchoring role of Willie, the most mild-mannered and consistent of the crew, delivered another excellent performance on the heels of his role in the film Swagger, which was based on NBA star Kevin Durant’s life. He, too reflected on some of the fun they had as a group.

Noting how much McLaughlin and Cook were pranksters throughout the production, Wills said, “They smashed cake in my face.” He didn’t mind the shenanigans at all and expressed sheer gratitude for the opportunity.

“I wanted to be in this film because I had watched these guys since I was younger,” said Wills. “They [St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Fab 5] were my role models. So being able to be a part of something like this is just a blessing and I am just grateful for it.”

The Sixth Man: Ohio

Dermot Mulroney in Shooting Stars on Peacock
Universal Pictures

Henderson, who played Romeo in the film — the more rebellious, or perhaps just pre-maturely judged, of the five — said that his takeaway from the story was definitely the importance of friendship in being on a team. “I think there is just a lot of mutual respect that has to go into playing. Romeo came in with a clear mission, to play games and to win games, that’s it. But, I think the fact that he built relationships with the guys along the way is what played a huge part in them winning.”

No doubt the real-life bonding while spending three months in Ohio had a similar effect on the quality of the film. With insistence from James, who grew up in and often expresses his love for the Buckeye state, the cast was able to experience the Midwestern culture up close and personal. Scenes were, as a result, so authentic to anyone who knows that part of Ohio. The commitment to location is commendable.

Henderson also noted the benefits of filming on location in a place that was integral to the athletic history that the characters made. Since all the events of the film happened in Ohio, he appreciated filming there. “Ohio is a cool place. It was unfamiliar for me at first, but we had such a fun time.”

Willis chimed in and expressed an understanding as to why they filmed there. “We filmed in Akron and Cleveland and the cities just showed mad love.”

Added Everage, “Shout out to Cleveland, I’m definitely flying back,” and he noted other cities in his accolades including Toledo and Akron.

In fact, each of the cast members — and even Robinson, the director who shared that he has a cousin who lives in Xenia — sent warm regards of appreciation to the production’s home, Ohio.

Shooting Stars
Universal Pictures

Dermot Mulroney added another note that will be special to anyone with a love for or connection to the state. He said he recognized how strong the community is.

“It’s amazing how many people knew somebody who knew somebody or even how many in the community were once players who had played for Dambrot. That kind of legacy, that story, that kind of coach to student story is beautiful. Being there in Ohio, it all just came alive for me. I just tapped into Akron and to the people, and it was a blessing,” said Mulroney, who added another cool behind the scenes tidbit.

“Those stands in the movie were full of people who were actual basketball fans in Ohio. Some of them had been at the actual games and got to relive it. So it was all completely connected to the beauty of the community and its connection to that sport. It was a special camaraderie filming there. And that’s really rare.”

From Universal Pictures, Shooting Stars is now streaming on Peacock.

Join us on Telegram

Best Fantasy NEWS Website

The Fantasy Times is the top fantasy news platform for staying up-to-date with the fantasy world. We have a team of knowledgeable sports, movies, tv series, web series researchers and authors who give you free updates on your fantasy topic and news. Our team is extremely talented and has extensive knowledge of websites that offer fantasy movies, entertainment news, lifestyle, celebrities, sports strategies, news, insights, analysis and much more.

The consistent good feedback from our customers proves that we are the top fantasy news website for providing fantasy news, live cricket tracking, updates, stats, feedback and much more. Before every match, our qualified professionals conduct challenging analysis only for you. Along with the ideal players and their respective teams, you can also find player after-match insights and strategies here.

We can tell you that you are in the proper location right now if you have been searching everywhere for the Best Entertainment and Lifestyle News website. You may check out all the updates by joining our Best Entertainment News Updates Telegram Channel.

We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.
Accept