Director Jeremiah Zagar On ‘Hustle,’ “Stealing” From ‘Raging Bull’ & Working With Adam Sandler [The Playlist Podcast]

Adam Sandler is back with another Netflix film. However, his upcoming feature, “Hustle,” isn’t your typical Sandler Netflix comedy. This is a film that not only showcases the actor’s comedic chops but also gives him a chance to flex his dramatic muscles. And in this episode of The Playlist Podcast, we’re sitting down with Jeremiah Zagar, the director of “Hustle,” as he talks about what makes Adam Sandler such a special actor to work with.

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For those not familiar, Zagar is probably best known for his indie drama, “We The Animals,” which is a film that everyone should go watch. Now, he’s returning with a much bigger project, a basketball dramedy starring Sandler as an NBA scout trying to find the next great player. He thinks he has struck gold with a young Spanish player named Bo Cruz and the two come back to the US to prove to the world that Bo Cruz is a future all-star. 

In our discussion, we talk about the various techniques Zagar utilized to make his basketball film feel different and more immersive than your typical basketball feature. He also talks about how “Raging Bull” greatly influenced the filming and how they presented the games. 

“We started watching other sports movies, the ones we loved. And the ones we thought were photographed the best were the boxing movies,” said Zagar. “We realized you’re inside the ring with the boxers…We were really moved by the way [Martin] Scorsese shot ‘Raging Bull.’”

He continued, “‘Raging Bull’ is a series of fights—four, I think—and each one is stylistically different. We also have four games and each one is stylistically different, and we thought, ‘Maybe we can imbue an emotional idea visually and sensorially. So, we looked at ‘Raging Bull’ and stole everything we could. [Laughs]”

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The filmmaker also talked about what makes Adam Sandler such a special actor, as a star who can not only deliver the laughs but also make you cry with his dramatic chops. 

“That’s a mysterious thing that a movie star actor has,” said Zagar. “He never does something that you feel isn’t true. Maybe that’s what it is. He’s just a true actor. You feel the truth in him, no matter what the scene is.”

“Hustle” arrives on Netflix on June 8. You can hear the full discussion with Zagar below:

The Playlist Podcast is part of The Playlist Podcast Network, which includes BingeworthyBe ReelDeep FocusThe Fourth Wall, and The Discourse. We can be heard on iTunesAnchorFM, SoundcloudStitcherSpotify, and most places where podcasts are found. You can stream the podcast via the Spotify embed within the article or click on the lead image at the top page. Follow us on iTunes, and you’ll get this podcast as well as our other shows regularly. Be sure to subscribe and drop us a comment or a rating, as we greatly appreciate it. Thank you for listening.