Move over Shaq. Here comes Michael. Basketball superman Michael Jordan is taking his world-renowned personality to the screen, playing an interplanetary super hero in the upcoming Warner Bros. movie "Space Jam."
Jordan's movie attempt follows a similar silver-screen effort by Shaquille O'Neal, the Orlando Magic star, who played a talented basketball prodigy in "Blue Chips." O'Neal generally received good reviews for his portrayal in the 1994 film, which grossed $23 million.
Jordan, through his "Hare Jordan" television commercials with Bugs Bunny, already has acquired some experience mugging for the cameras. But he will have to make a quantum leap - even with Jordan's leaping ability - from advertising spots to film in this full-length movie.
"Even though the film has two worldwide marketing giants in Bugs Bunny and Jordan, the movie still needs to stand up on its own and have some semblance of a plot," says Anita Bush, a film editor with Variety, the entertainment trade magazine.
Why has Jordan gotten involved? Ms. Bush surmises that "it is the lure of Hollywood, the excitement of being in the movie business."
Even if Jordan can't act, the movie could be a natural, considering the marketing possibilities. "From a marketing point of view alone, Warner Bros. now has instant promotional partners in Jordan's Nike and McDonald's to help bring in money to promote the film," says Bush, who adds that the whole idea for the project might have come from Warner's marketing division. Hollywood has joined up with different corporate partners over the last few years, she says.
Even though Jordan has several NBA championship rings, Olympic gold medals, and a ton of money, Bugs Bunny is likely to come out ahead in the film business. The animated short in which he starred, "Knighty Knight Bugs," received a 1958 Academy Award. For Jordan and Bugs Bunny, "Space Jam" marks the first time either actor will appear in a full-length feature film.
The movie, which will be half animation and half live action, finds the Looney Tunes characters in need of Jordan's help to save them from outer-space creatures. A number of sports celebrities are expected to make cameo appearances, and filmmaker Ivan Reitman, known for such comedies as "Ghostbusters" and "Dave," will produce it. "Space Jam" is scheduled to be released in November 1996.
Jordan says the filming of the movie will not conflict with his basketball career. Jordan's scenes are to be filmed in one month this fall, before training camp begins in October, Reitman says.
Knowing that they now have the dapper, media-savvy Jordan under contract, Warner Bros. did not waste any time bringing its new marketing machine in front of the media. On June 20, more than 150 media people and 25 battling cameramen were hanging on his every word at the Hilton Hotel in New York.
Jordan handled the press with his customary smoothness. When asked how much money he stands to make for "Space Jam," the unflappable superstar said, "Bugs is making more than I am."
Who is going to get top billing? "Bugs will; I don't mind playing second fiddle to him."
Is there one actor you would like to meet in Hollywood? "Sidney Poitier. Maybe I can bring him some water or something," said a humble Jordan.
Are you going to sing? "Whoa, wrong MJ."
Will any other basketball star follow in the large footsteps of O'Neal and Jordan? Jordan hinted that the Phoenix Suns' round mound of retort, Charles Barkley, could make it in show business. "I'm looking forward to Charles doing a movie," he said. "He could really pull it off."