From the hardwood to Hollywood, the Spaniard has made a mark on the game of basketball. Boardroom dives in on the details of the Netflix film’s newest star.
Adam Sandler craves authenticity as a filmmaker, specifically when his features are rooted in sports. So, when constructing his new basketball film Hustle, experienced hoopers would be the key to bringing the film the sense of raw realness that he was after.
Unfortunately, finding a high-level athlete who is also skilled as an actor isn’t effortless an effortless task. However, Juancho Hernangomez shocked Sandler during the filmmaking process, giving the authenticity Sandler and production partner LeBron James were seeking, and laying the foundation for the film’s breakout role of Bo Cruz.
So, who is Juancho Hernangomez? A boy from Spain with ambitious NBA hoop dreams. One whose acting resumé didn’t even include a school play. Yet on the biggest stage, Juancho delivered a formidable performance.
Hernangomez the Hooper
Despite his role, Hernangomez’s first love remains the game of basketball. Through the years, he’s made his mark in the NBA. He came into the league as a 2016 first-round draft pick, taken 15th overall by the Denver Nuggets.
He solidified his spot on the roster there through 2020, and has journeyed to Minnesota, Boston, San Antonio, and Utah.
- Height: 6’9”
- Weight: 214lbs
- Country: Spain
- Draft Information: 2016 NBA Draft: Round 1, Pick 15
- Points per game: 5.4
- Rebounds per game: 3.4
- Assists per game: 0.6
- Blocks per game: 0.2
His success in the league is no surprise to his fellow countrymen, given that he is one of Spain’s best basketball players. The 6’9” power forward took home the title as the nation’s best player in the Spanish ACB league under the age of 22.
Plus, He’s also the brother of New Orleans Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez. Both brothers represented their country at the 2020 Olympic games, where Spain finished sixth overall in the standings.
Becoming Bo Cruz
Despite his lengthy list of accomplishments, Juancho is much more than just a talented NBA player. He’s also a shockingly good actor who has a passion for film, which comes through in his first-ever starring role.
Speaking with Boardroom, Sandler articulated how impressed he was with Juancho, who decided to audition for the movie in good fun.
“[He] auditioned, just for fun,” said Sandler. ” The guy happened to be this incredible actor. He was just so natural. I knew Juancho a little bit from the [Denver] Nuggets and the [Minnesota] Timberwolves, and I thought, ‘that guy is smooth with a great shot.’ When a guy is an NBA player, he will be able to do anything. I knew there was a lot of dribbling stuff to do [in the film] and that Juancho would be incredible. He was incredible], and everybody in [the film] could play for real.”
Admittedly, Hernangomez never desired to evolve into an actor. Nevertheless, being stuck in quarantine with his family catalyzed his audition. During that time, his sister proposed the idea of learning to act, to which Juancho was initially reluctant. So much so that he told his agents he wouldn’t even try acting as a hobby.
“I was focused on my basketball career,” said Juancho to the Rich Eisen show. “I told them, ‘no, I’m not interested in doing a movie. I’m not an actor. I’m happy enough with my basketball career.’ I fell in love with basketball, and I didn’t want to be a part of the movie.”
Eventually, his sister used her powers of persuasion to convince Juancho to attend a casting call. The process was such a foreign concept that Hernangomez didn’t know how to audition for the position.
He positioned his cell phone on the kitchen table and aimlessly role-played the part of Cruz, echoing lines and improvisations back and forth with his sister. The self-analysis of the audition from Hernangomez made him question how he could conceivably attain the role in the eyes of Sandler.
The amateur set-up couldn’t derail his talent. Sandler saw something remarkable in Juancho, giving him the part that he would execute to perfection.
How to Watch “Hustle”
Hustle sees Sandler play Stanley Sugerman, a basketball scout on thin ice within the league. However, he finds an international star in Bo Cruz, played by Juancho, whom he brings back stateside without the team’s approval to salvage his career.
Hustle was released in select theaters on Friday, June 3. It will be available to stream on Netflix starting Wednesday, June 8.