15 Elevated Facts About White Men Can't Jump
Ron Shelton’s White Men Can’t Jump told the story of Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) and Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson), two men who team up to hustle other Los Angeles street basketball players. Despite the alliance, the two continually bicker—with each other and their significant others. Here are some elevating facts about the hit film, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago today.
1. SHELTON WROTE THE FIRST 37 PAGES OF THE SCRIPT IN ONE DAY.
The Bull Durham writer-director admitted that he is never that fast with his writing. It helped that Shelton already had the basic idea of his movie in mind, and was an L.A. street basketball player himself.
2. DENZEL WASHINGTON WAS THE ORIGINAL CHOICE FOR SIDNEY.
3. KEANU REEVES, CHARLIE SHEEN, AND DAVID DUCHOVNY WERE CONSIDERED FOR BILLY.
Part of the audition involved shooting hoops at a basketball court at a Culver City casting office. Reeves just didn’t cut it, and Woody Harrelson acknowledged that Reeves’ lack of talent in the sport helped change his career. "I probably would've just been Woody Boyd but for the fact that Keanu Reeves didn't play great basketball," Harrelson told the Daily Express. Sheen was offered the part after Reeves’ failed audition but passed. Duchovny said he auditioned and really wanted the role.
4. ROSIE PEREZ BEAT OUT HOLLY HUNTER AND ROSANNA ARQUETTE FOR GLORIA.
After convincing the casting department that she could pull off the role, Perez wrote in her memoir that the studio took issue with a Puerto Rican actress playing Woody Harrelson’s girlfriend, until Snipes and Harrelson insisted they back off. Perez said that she was "grateful that they put themselves out there like that [because] that's the only way things change—when everyone joins the fight and you're not the only one rushing up the hill."
5. HALLE BERRY AND ANGELA BASSETT AUDITIONED FOR RHONDA.
Tyra Ferrell got to play Rhonda Deane instead. She currently plays Roxanne Ford on Empire.
6. THE CREW NEEDED PROTECTION WHILE SHOOTING IN SOME OF THE L.A. NEIGHBORHOODS.
Before filming, the Fruit of Islam went to neighborhoods to negotiate with various gangs to ensure the cast and crew’s safety. "They would go into neighborhoods ahead of us and navigate the gang turf wars and all that so we would know exactly where we could shoot safely," Shelton told Filmmaker Magazine. "They were terrific."
7. SNIPES WAS A GREAT ATHLETE, BUT NOT A GREAT BASKETBALL PLAYER.
Practices before filming were held at Rancho Cienega Park, from 9 a.m. to noon, five days a week, for four weeks. Consultant Rob Ryder said they worked with Snipes’ limitations and “fooled a lot of people.”
8. ACTUAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS WERE INVOLVED.
Raymond was played by Marques Johnson, a five-time NBA All-Star. Freeman Williams was a member of the San Diego Clippers, Utah Jazz, and Washington Bullets in his eight-year career before he was “Duck” Johnson. Dwight “the Flight” McGhee was none other than 1985 Nets draft pick Nigel Miguel. Kevin Benton (Zeke) played professionally in China and Europe. Duane Martin (Willie Lewis) was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Knicks in 1989, and currently stars in the BET comedy Real Husbands of Hollywood.
9. THE ACTORS BROUGHT IN THEIR OWN "YO MOMMA" JOKES.
While Shelton had a page worth of momma jokes, he asked the actors to bring their own. Everyone seemed up to the task, particularly Kadeem Hardison (Junior), who called Biz Markie for help. The jokes that were considered the best by the cast didn’t make the final cut because Shelton wanted to avoid an NC-17 rating.
10. HARRELSON HUSTLED SNIPES OUT OF MONEY.
There was constant gambling on set. Cozart threatened to take all of Woody’s Cheers money and estimated he won $5000 off of him. Harrelson won money off of Snipes though when he successfully dunked. Snipes never realized that the crew lowered the rim before Harrelson’s attempt.
11. PEREZ FORCED ALEX TREBEK TO IMPROVISE.
Gloria mispronouncing Vesuvius was not in the script. Trebek rolled with it and asked the Jeopardy! judges as if an actual contestant said “Mount Suvius.” Shelton denied Perez’s wish to shoot the scene again.
12. JEOPARDY! USED THE "FOODS THAT START WITH THE LETTER Q" CATEGORY FIVE YEARS LATER.
On the October 1, 1997 edition, Trebek said, “If you saw the movie White Men Can't Jump, you'll remember this category.”
13. NIKE WAS INSPIRED BY BILLY HOYLE.
14. STANLEY KUBRICK WAS A FAN.
According to the famous director’s daughter, he liked White Men Can’t Jump. He also apparently enjoyed the comedies Modern Romance and The Jerk.
15. A SEQUEL SET IN EUROPE HAD BEEN DISCUSSED.
Shelton admitted that a studio personnel change led talk of an immediate sequel to just remain talk. Recently, Wesley Snipes admitted that White Men Can’t Jump 2 has been discussed, and that he would be interested in playing Sidney again.