There are few people in this world who have had immense success in life on the level of LeBron James. The guy is arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all time, has a gigantic fanbase, is incredibly wealthy, and regularly comes across as a nice, affable guy. Apparently that just wasn’t enough for him, however, because now he has added yet another impressive item to that list. Believe it or not, the guy is actually quite a talented comedic actor, and he utilizes those skills to be one of the best parts of Judd Apatow’s new movie, Trainwreck.
As you may have read about in my review last night, the upcoming summer comedy had a special "work in progress" screening last night during the SXSW Film Festival, and while the film as a whole is rather wonderful and hilarious, it’s LeBron James who weirdly winds up being one of its greatest scene-stealers. Working in much more than just a simple cameo capacity, the basketball player actually has a key supporting role in the movie as the close confidant of the sports doctor character played by Bill Hader, and in not being afraid to poke fun at himself, the guy winds up actually generating some of the movie’s biggest laughs. Surprising as it may sound, he’s the real deal.
Taking a page out of the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg playbook from This Is The End, Trainwreck features James playing an exaggerated and fictionalized version of himself – but rather than going the "mean asshole" route that would have been incredibly easy, the movie actually goes the opposite direction and has him playing the selfless, reliable best friend that we all want (albeit one who is a bit stingy and afraid of ending up like MC Hammer). He has multiple sequences in the film where he is paired up with Bill Hader’s Dr. Aaron Connors, and the two men have an excellent and hilarious rapport as they talk about everything from the central romantic relationship between Aaron and Amy Schumer’s character (of which James is over-the-top supportive), to trivia about Cleveland. It’s incredibly surprising given the guy’s extremely limited acting experience, but the reality is that he’s a natural.
Earlier today, I interviewed Judd Apatow about Trainwreck, and when the subject of the conversation turned to working with LeBron James, the filmmaker expressed that he himself was shocked by the athlete’s gifted comedic abilities, and noted that he more than held his own while working alongside his seasoned co-stars – even when it came to improvisation. The director explained,
He approached it the same way that all of the other comedians and other actors did. He never said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. That would make me look weird.’ He was like a comic! He came in and he played, and he was loose, and he wasn’t precious… And then he improvised! A lot of the funniest things are things that he was improvising.
Sadly, it will still be a few months before most of you will be able to see LeBron James’ performance for yourselves, as Trainwreck won’t be arriving in theaters until July 17th, but you can use that time to adequately prepare yourself for the surprise.