White Men Can't Jump (1992)

R | 116 mins | Comedy | 1992

Director:

Ron Shelton

Writer:

Ron Shelton

Producers:

Don Miller, David Lester

Cinematographer:

Russell Boyd

Editor:

Kimberly Ray

Production Designer:

Dennis Washington

Production Company:

Twentieth Century Fox
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HISTORY


       Suggesting that White Men Can’t Jump may have had different titles in the development stage, a 1 Feb 1991 Screen International news item referred to it as White Guys Can’t Jump , and an 8 Feb 1991 Var stated that the title was White Boys Can’t Jump .
       Writer-Director Ron Shelton conceived of the premise for White Men Can’t Jump while working on the script for Blue Chips (1994, see entry). According to a 23 Mar 1992 LAT article, Shelton had been writing a playground scene when he realized he wanted to fully explore the “wonderful craziness that goes on behind those chain link fences.” A former college basketball star and regular at the Hollywood YMCA courts, Shelton was intimately familiar with the sport of basketball and “love[d] the theater of it, the posturing and the rituals.” According to the 1 Feb 1991 Screen International item, Shelton put his Blue Chips script on hold so he could concentrate fully on White Men Can’t Jump .
       As stated in the 23 Mar 1992 LAT article, Shelton learned from casting his 1998 baseball film, Bull Durham (see entry), that it was important to hire actors who could play the sport. Tryouts for White Men Can’t Jump were held over a three-week period at Hollywood High School, and actors were chosen based on a combination of basketball and acting skills. A number of notable basketball players from the Los Angeles area, including former college athletes as well as NBA stars, were hired ... More Less


       Suggesting that White Men Can’t Jump may have had different titles in the development stage, a 1 Feb 1991 Screen International news item referred to it as White Guys Can’t Jump , and an 8 Feb 1991 Var stated that the title was White Boys Can’t Jump .
       Writer-Director Ron Shelton conceived of the premise for White Men Can’t Jump while working on the script for Blue Chips (1994, see entry). According to a 23 Mar 1992 LAT article, Shelton had been writing a playground scene when he realized he wanted to fully explore the “wonderful craziness that goes on behind those chain link fences.” A former college basketball star and regular at the Hollywood YMCA courts, Shelton was intimately familiar with the sport of basketball and “love[d] the theater of it, the posturing and the rituals.” According to the 1 Feb 1991 Screen International item, Shelton put his Blue Chips script on hold so he could concentrate fully on White Men Can’t Jump .
       As stated in the 23 Mar 1992 LAT article, Shelton learned from casting his 1998 baseball film, Bull Durham (see entry), that it was important to hire actors who could play the sport. Tryouts for White Men Can’t Jump were held over a three-week period at Hollywood High School, and actors were chosen based on a combination of basketball and acting skills. A number of notable basketball players from the Los Angeles area, including former college athletes as well as NBA stars, were hired to play supporting roles. The film’s basketball stars-turned-actors included: Marques Johnson (“Raymond”); Nigel Miguel (“Dwight ‘The Flight’ McGhee”); Duane Martin (“Willie Lewis”); and Freeman Williams (“Duck Johnson”).
       Lead actors Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson began their feature film careers together in the 1986 film, Wildcats (see entry), in which they played teammates on a high school football team, according to a 22 Mar 1992 San Francisco Chronicle & Examiner article. In the six years between Wildcats and White Men Can’t Jump , Snipes became a prominent actor in films such as Jungle Fever (1991, see entry) and New Jack City (1991, see entry), and Harrelson starred in the hit television show Cheers .
       According to production notes from the AMPAS library, the role of “Gloria” was originally conceived as “an upper-class white girl at Smith or Barnard who runs away with a bad boy.” However, when actress Rosie Perez first met Shelton and complained that she could not audition because she “having a bad hair day,” she left a lasting impression on the director. Based on his meeting with Perez, Shelton changed the character and cast her.
       The Venice Beach Boys, a musical group who perform in the first scene of the film and reappear throughout, were assembled specifically for White Men Can’t Jump and consisted of jazz singers Jon Hendricks, Bill Henderson, and actor-singer Sonny Craver, as stated in production notes. The 27 Mar 1992 NYT review credited the trio with “striking a suitably mellow mood” for the film.
       According to the 22 Mar 1992 San Francisco Chronicle & Examiner , “Harrelson and Snipes – along with the other ball-playing actors – attended an intensive month-long basketball camp” to get in shape and prepare for the start of the physically intense shooting schedule.
       White Men Can’t Jump was scheduled to shoot over a twelve-week period, according to a news brief in the 7 Jun 1991 Screen International . Contemporary sources offered conflicting information on the date shooting began; however, according to production notes, principal photography began mid-May 1991 on the Venice Beach Boardwalk in Venice, California. The basketball scenes were filmed on location at outdoor basketball courts around the Los Angeles area, including Venice Beach, Compton (near the Watts Towers), and Lafayette Park in downtown Los Angeles, and proved to be grueling for the actors, who spent hours blocking, rehearsing, shooting, and reshooting the dynamic pickup games that formed the core of the film. Shelton said that his goal was to “show the real Los Angeles, the places where people live, not the exotic postcard images.” Even the area’s homeless population was recruited to work as extras for the ten days that filming occurred at Venice Beach. As stated in production notes, Shelton filmed “two weeks and approximately eighty hours of basketball” before taking a break to shoot at a “rundown motel in Santa Monica,” after which the crew returned to the basketball courts for additional filming. The two-on-two basketball tournament proved to be the most physically demanding sequence to shoot, requiring the actors to work for ten hours per day on the courts. Cinematographer Russell Boyd utilized “a multitude of camera systems and techniques,” including a Steadicam, high-speed cameras, and wide-angle lenses, to capture the highly choreographed basketball sequences.
       According to an 8 Feb 1991 DV article, White Men Can’t Jump was introduced to industry professionals a year before its theatrical release at the 1991 ShoWest, a theater industry tradeshow, as part of “a 35-minute, customized, 24-picture product reel” from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
       White Men Can’t Jump received favorable reviews and was embraced by the public. According to a 26 Apr 1992 NYT article, a survey by Twentieth Century Fox found that the film appealed to “both male and female viewers.” A 27 Mar 1992 HR review called it “a sparkling, slice-of-life Americana story” and “a poetic, rag-tag triumph.” Snipes, Harrelson, Perez, and actress Tyra Ferrell, were praised for their performances, and more than one review lauded the film’s cinematic portrayal of the high-stakes basketball games. Janet Maslin noted in her 27 Mar 1992 NYT review that Snipes and Harrelson’s “comic timing together shapes the film’s raucous wit, and their basketball playing looks credible, too.” In a 30 Mar 1992 Var review, Brian Lowry echoed Maslin’s sentiment regarding the actors’ basketball skills, adding that the “tech credits are another slam dunk, from the jamming score to high-flying basketball choreography.”
       The question of whether the film’s title represented any sort of racial stereotyping was, according to Shelton, “a question that [seemed] to keep popping up” but which he denied, as stated in the 23 Mar 1992 LAT . Caryn James noted in her 26 Apr 1992 NYT article that the film tackled the important topic of racial prejudice head-on, writing that it was “politically correct in its attack on stereotypes, but rude enough in its humor so that no one feels preached at; it echoes both political correctness and the anti-politically correct backlash.” She also stated that Shelton’s main characters “seem real because of the frank way they acknowledge stereotypes even as they subvert them.”
       According to a 31 Mar 1992 Albany Sunday Herald news item, in its first weekend of release, White Men Can’t Jump took in $14.7 million in ticket sales, putting it in first place. The film took in $10.2 million in its second weekend, as reported by a 7 Apr 1992 LAT item, and continued to make a strong showing at the box office at least one month after its initial release, as stated in the 26 Apr 1992 NYT .
       A 2 Apr 1997 LAT article reported that Ron Shelton won $9.8 million in a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox, who, Shelton claimed, owed him a portion of the film’s profits based on a deal that “entitled [him] to half the net profits of the film and part of the gross receipts.” A jury agreed with Shelton, on a 10-to-2 vote in his favor. Fox, meanwhile, stood by its claim that Shelton was paid everything he was entitled to under his contract and vowed to appeal the verdict. According to a 27 May 1997 article published by Var online, the April verdict was upheld a month later by a Los Angeles Supreme Court Judge and Fox was denied a new trial.

       During the opening credits, a jazzy version of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare plays as part of the soundtrack. The end credits contain a “Special Thanks” to the following organizations and individuals: Jeopardy! and Merv Griffin Enterprises; Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter; Los Angeles County Supervisor Edmund D. Edelman; Los Angeles County Chief Administrative Officer Richard Dixon; the Film Office of the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County; Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles; Los Angeles City Film & Video Permit Office; and the residents and business community of Venice Beach, Watts, and South Central Los Angeles.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Anjuli M. Singh, an independent scholar.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Albany Sunday Herald
31 Mar 1992.
---
Daily Variety
8 Feb 1991
p. 1, 26.
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 1992
p. 6, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Mar 1992
Section F, p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
27 Mar 1992
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
7 Apr 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Apr 1997
Section D, p. 4, 13.
New York Times
27 Mar 1992
p. 22.
New York Times
26 Apr 1992.
---
Playboy
Sep 1993.
---
Screen International
1 Feb 1991.
---
Screen International
7 Jun 1991.
---
SF Chron-Ex
22 Mar 1992.
---
Variety
13 May 1991.
---
Variety
30 Mar 1992
p. 20, 95.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
"The Venice Beach Boys":
Ballplayers:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Ron Shelton Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Steadicam op
1st cam asst
1st cam asst
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Cam loader
Key grip
Still photog
2d company grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Elec best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dept asst
Muralist
Muralist
Muralist
Muralist
Muralist
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Addl ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
Asst prop master
Leadman
Swing crew
Swing crew
Swing crew
Swing crew
Const foreman
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Labor foreman
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Women's cost
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus supv
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Scoring mixer
Featured vocalist
Exec soundtrack album prod
Exec soundtrack album prod
SOUND
Sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Boom op
Cable person
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
Asst ADR ed
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
ADR voice casting
ADR mixer
Supv foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Sd eff rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Main title des by
Opticals by
MAKEUP
Head makeup artist
Makeup artist
Head hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Background casting
Background asst
Scr supv
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Transportation coord
Unit pub
Asst to prods
Asst to Mr. Shelton
Asst to exec prod
DGA trainee
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft service
Craft service
First aid
Basketball coach
Asst coach
P. T. trainer
Basketball consultant
Scr consultant
Basketball asst
Projectionist
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Security coord
Caterer
NBA footage furnished courtesy of
Process compositing by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Jeopardy! Theme," written by Merv Griffin, courtesy of Merv Griffin Enterprises.
SONGS
"Mood Indigo," written by Duke Ellington, Barney Bigard and Irving Mills
"How to Act," written by Rom, George Clinton III and Philippe Wynn, performed by College Boyz, courtesy of Virgin Records America, Inc.
"Sympin," written by Dallas Austin, Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman, performed by Boyz II Men, courtesy of Motown Records
+
SONGS
"Mood Indigo," written by Duke Ellington, Barney Bigard and Irving Mills
"How to Act," written by Rom, George Clinton III and Philippe Wynn, performed by College Boyz, courtesy of Virgin Records America, Inc.
"Sympin," written by Dallas Austin, Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman, performed by Boyz II Men, courtesy of Motown Records
"I Got You (I Feel Good)," written and performed by James Brown, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
"Freezin' Em," written by Marvin Taylor, Thomas Taylor and William Taylor, Jr., performed by Level III, courtesy of EMI Records USA
"Let Me Make It Up to You Tonight," written by Diane Warren, performed by Jody Watley, courtesy of MCA Records
"Jump for It," written by Jesse Johnson, Kim Cage and Keith Lewis, performed by Jesse Johnson
"I Take What I Want," written by Isaac Hayes, David Porter and Mabon Hodges
"Purple Haze," written and performed by Jimi Hendrix, courtesy of A.R.M. BV
"He Stopped Loving Her Today," written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, performed by George Jones, courtesy of Epic Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"Careless Love," written and peformed by Ray Charles, courtesy of Ray Charles Enterprises, Inc.
"Area Code 213," written and performed by Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., courtesy of Island Records
"Can You Come Out and Play," written by William Harmon, Christopher Troy, Derrick Edmondson, Theodore Martin, Jr. and Rodney Lee, performed by The O'Jays, courtesy of EMI Records USA
"The Best Things in Life Are Free," written by B. G. DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson
"A to the K," written by Louis Freeze, Senen Reyes and Larry Muggerud, performed by Cypress Hill, courtesy of Ruffhouse/Columbia Records
"Super Bad," written and performed by James Brown, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Records, Inc.
"Fakin' the Funk," written by Shawn McKenzie, Kevin McKenzie and William Paul Mitchell, performed by Main Source, courtesy of Wild Pitch Records Ltd.
"If I Lose," written by Ron Shelton and Bennie Wallace, performed by Aretha Franklin, courtesy of Arista Records
"The Hook," written and performed by Queen Latifah, courtesy of Tommy Boy Music, Inc.
"Watch Me Do My Thang," written by Linda Brown, Kim Armstrong, Dave Pensado, Todd Chapman and Charles Bobbitt, performed by Lipstick, courtesy of EMI Records USA
"Gloria," written by Ron Shelton and Woody Harrelson
"White Men Can't Jump," written by Dallas Austin and Randy Ran, performed by Riff, courtesy of SBK Records
"Never Let 'Em See You Sweat," written by Phillip Stewart II, Tony Haynes and Thaddis Harrell, Jr., performed by Go West, courtesy of EMI Records USA
"I'm Going Up," written by Benjamin Winans, performed by Bebe & Cece Winans, courtesy of Capitol Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 27 March 1992
New York opening: week of 27 March 1992
Production Date:
mid May--early August 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
23 March 1992
Copyright Number:
PA558819
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Color by Deluxe®
Lenses/Prints
Filmed with Panavision cameras & lenses
Duration(in mins):
116
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31615
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, Billy Hoyle, a white man, watches a group of African American men play basketball on a court at Venice Beach. One of the players, Sidney Deane, heckles his competitors and gloats when he blocks a shot. Sidney approaches Billy on the sidelines and asks for the score, but Billy does not know it, prompting Sidney to call him a chump. Walter, one of Sidney’s competitors, quits the game, and Sidney suggests the other team take Billy as a replacement. After he joins the game, Billy steals the ball from Sidney and leads his team to victory. Billy then bets Sidney $62 that he can shoot more baskets than him, and Sidney loses. At a motel, Billy returns to his girlfriend, Gloria Clemente, who is reading an almanac. Gloria asks how much money he made, reminding Billy that they still owe the Stucci brothers over $7,000. Nevertheless, Gloria is confident that the producers of the game show Jeopardy! will call her to be a contestant and their financial worries will soon be over. As he showers, Gloria alerts Billy that there is a knock at the door. Afraid it's the Stucci brothers, Billy tells Gloria to wait in the bathroom and climb out the window if she doesn’t hear from him in thirty seconds. Billy opens the door to find Sidney, who denies Billy’s accusation that he has come to get his money back. Sidney asks Billy to play with him next week in a two-on-two tournament, and suggests that they hustle some other teams in the meantime. ... +


In Los Angeles, California, Billy Hoyle, a white man, watches a group of African American men play basketball on a court at Venice Beach. One of the players, Sidney Deane, heckles his competitors and gloats when he blocks a shot. Sidney approaches Billy on the sidelines and asks for the score, but Billy does not know it, prompting Sidney to call him a chump. Walter, one of Sidney’s competitors, quits the game, and Sidney suggests the other team take Billy as a replacement. After he joins the game, Billy steals the ball from Sidney and leads his team to victory. Billy then bets Sidney $62 that he can shoot more baskets than him, and Sidney loses. At a motel, Billy returns to his girlfriend, Gloria Clemente, who is reading an almanac. Gloria asks how much money he made, reminding Billy that they still owe the Stucci brothers over $7,000. Nevertheless, Gloria is confident that the producers of the game show Jeopardy! will call her to be a contestant and their financial worries will soon be over. As he showers, Gloria alerts Billy that there is a knock at the door. Afraid it's the Stucci brothers, Billy tells Gloria to wait in the bathroom and climb out the window if she doesn’t hear from him in thirty seconds. Billy opens the door to find Sidney, who denies Billy’s accusation that he has come to get his money back. Sidney asks Billy to play with him next week in a two-on-two tournament, and suggests that they hustle some other teams in the meantime. At a court near downtown Los Angeles, Billy and Sidney employ the same hustling strategy that Billy used earlier, as Sidney challenges a player named Raymond to a two-on-two game, and allows Raymond to pick his opponent’s partner. As before, the out-of-place Billy sits on the sidelines, and Raymond assigns him to play with Sidney. Billy and Sidney win the game and the $500 at stake, but when Billy accidentally reveals he and Sidney are acquainted, Raymond walks to his car to get his gun. Sidney and Billy climb over a fence and run to Billy’s car, where Gloria waits. As Billy drops Sidney in front of the rundown apartment building where he lives, Sidney says tomorrow they will hustle in Watts. Later, Gloria and Billy make love. Afterward, they get into an argument and Billy walks out, only to find the Stucci brothers outside their motel room. He runs back inside, and as the gun-wielding Stucci brothers break down the door, Billy and Gloria escape out the bathroom window and run to another motel. Meanwhile, Sidney and his wife, Rhonda Deane, tour a house for rent. Though Rhonda really wants the house, Sidney says they cannot afford it. When Rhonda suggests she get a job, Sidney rejects the idea and heads to Watts for the basketball game. Billy joins Sidney at the court, posing as an unassuming spectator. Sidney’s opponents fall for his ruse, and he and Billy are teamed up. This time, however, Sidney does not play well, and they lose. When he gets home, Billy tells Gloria about the loss, and she decides that Sidney must have hustled him. At Gloria’s urging, they take the bus to Sidney’s apartment, where Rhonda answers the door. Inside, they find Sidney watching television with his “opponents” from the Watts game, thereby confirming Gloria’s theory that Billy was hustled. Gloria and Rhonda talk in the kitchen while Billy and Sidney argue. Soon after, Rhonda announces that she will return some of Billy’s money, but insists that Billy and Sidney need to make amends and play together in the upcoming two-on-two tournament. Though the men remain angry at each other, they eventually agree. On the day of the tournament, Billy embarrasses Sidney by shouting insults at the other players; however, the heckling pays off, and Sidney and Billy win the $5,000 grand prize and two small trophies. As they drive home, Billy bets Sidney his half of the winnings, alleging that he can dunk a basketball. Sidney pulls over at a dilapidated basketball court, where Billy fails to dunk the basketball in three tries. Sidney tells Billy that he can’t dunk because “white men can’t jump.” Having lost his winnings, Billy buys a dress for Gloria to wear on Jeopardy! , then returns to the motel late and finds Gloria waiting with a pizza, now cold, and wine. Though she is pleased with the dress, Gloria overturns the table in anger when she hears that Billy lost his prize money. Gloria packs her bags and walks outside to hitchhike. When Gloria gets into a truck, Billy tries to stop her, but one of the Stuccis appears and punches him in the face. At a remote location, the Stucci brothers hold Billy at gunpoint and show him snapshots of people they have killed. Billy asks for one more week to repay them, and the Stucci brothers acquiesce. The next day, Billy begs Sidney to help him win back Gloria. Sidney takes Billy to a basketball court to see his friend Robert, who works as a security guard on the studio lot where Jeopardy! is filmed. After Robert challenges Billy to make a difficult hook shot, Billy succeeds and Robert agrees to help Gloria become a contestant on Jeopardy! . Later, Billy and Sidney watch from the audience as Gloria dominates the game show. Billy goes to Gloria’s dressing room to sing her a love song that he wrote, and they are reunited. Afterward, they make love in Gloria’s upscale hotel room and talk about their future. Gloria gives Billy $2,000 of her winnings to buy nice clothes to wear to job interviews. Meanwhile, Sidney returns home to find his apartment burglarized and his tournament winnings stolen. Seeing Rhonda upset, Sidney finally agrees to let her get a job so that they can save enough money to move. Sidney finds Billy and Gloria on the boardwalk and tells Billy that two local basketball legends, Eddie “The King” Faroo and Duck Johnson, are asking $2,500 to play against them. Billy has $2,000 from Gloria, but does not want to risk his relationship by betting the money. Sidney tells Billy he owes him for getting Gloria on Jeopardy! and that winning this game could save his marriage to Rhonda. When Billy tells Gloria about the game, she leaves him again. Billy and Sidney later play against The King and Duck. At game point, Billy dunks the ball, winning the game and proving to Sidney that he can jump. Afterward, Sidney and Billy return to Gloria’s hotel room to find she has moved out. Billy tries to blame Sidney for the breakup, but Sidney tells Billy that he’s a grown man and needs to think for himself. On the balcony of the hotel room, Billy encounters the Stucci brothers, who demand their money. After he pays them, the Stuccis take snapshots of Billy, who poses as a corpse at their request. Sidney later gives Billy advice about women as they walk toward the Venice Beach basketball court. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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