When Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder makes his entrance, it's usually on a polished wood floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena instead of a red carpet premiere.
But on Sunday night, hundreds of fans turned out at Harkins Bricktown Theatres to greet No. 35 as he made his movie debut in “Thunderstruck,” and Durant was happy that the enthusiasm for his work extended beyond the court.
“It was good — it was a nice turnout,” Durant said, smiling and leaning back in his chair during a one-on-one interview at Dallas' Ritz-Carlton Hotel the following Tuesday. “Everyone came out and supported it, and that was the best part for me. I had my family there, my friends and all the fans in OKC, the coaches. It was beautiful to see the support and love. It means a lot.”
That enthusiasm was shared by Durant's mother, Wanda Pratt, who makes a cameo appearance as herself and received a huge ovation from the audience Sunday. When she heard the clapping, it made her feel good about not only her son's first movie role, but her own.
“Kevin was a natural,” Pratt said of her son's performance. “When I saw the movie, it was all too real for me: This was my son in a major motion picture, starring him as himself.
“It made me want to cry,” said Pratt, who said she cried at the London Summer Olympics when Durant won a gold medal and set a record for the number of points scored in an Olympic basketball game. “I cry at movies, too. I've been crying all year.”
Making a move
“Thunderstruck” is a light comedy about 14-year-old Brian Newall (Taylor Gray), an uncoordinated towel boy at a fictional Oklahoma City high school. Brian has dreams of basketball greatness but cannot sink a shot to save his life. Then, when the teenager meets Durant at a Thunder game, a little movie magic takes place. Suddenly, in a reversal of fortunes, Brian has the skills to start for his Eastview High School Eagles, and Durant is throwing nothing but bricks.
In the beginning, “Thunderstruck” was not a slam dunk for Durant — he balked at first, mainly because of his tight training schedule. The film would require him to relocate for several days of shooting in Baton Rouge, La., which would take Durant out of his element for longer than usual.
“My agent at the time brought it to me and I said ‘No' at first. I didn't want to be a part of something like that because it takes so long,” he said. “But then I thought about it and said, ‘It will be cool and it will be something for the kids to watch.' I've got a lot of little cousins, so I thought it'd be nice for them to see their big cousin in a movie. So I thought, ‘Let's do it.'”
Basketball moves fast with few breaks, which is the exact opposite of on-set rhythms during a film shoot. Durant said he was able to spend most of his time in or near a gym, so he stayed in shape and kept up his game while the often tedious process of setting up shots took place in the background.
“You would film something for 20 minutes, and then you'd wait an hour for them to switch it up with different angles and take the same thing over again,” Durant said. “It's a long process, so I was asking questions of the director and the ADs (assistant directors) about the movies they've been a part of. One of the guys I became close with, his name is Marty (Eli Schwartz). He was the first AD, and he did ‘The Karate Kid' (the 2010 remake with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan). I asked him how long he was on set for that, and he said six months. I was only on set for a week and a half, so I have new respect for actors and actresses. They really work hard to make a good movie.”