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Director Malcolm D. Lee On LeBron James In Space Jam: A New Legacy 'He Wanted To Be Great, Wanted Movie To Be Great'

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- The wait for the highly anticipated new Space Jam movie is almost over. Space Jam: A New Legacy, hits theaters on Friday July 16 starring LeBron James with all the Looney Tunes and a brand new story for audiences to enjoy. Malcolm D. Lee stepped into the director's chair for the film and he says he never anticipated working on a movie like this.

Space Jam: A New Legacy Party In The Park After Dark
VALENCIA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 29: Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, and LeBron Jamesattends the Space Jam: A New Legacy Party in The Park After Dark at Six Flags Magic Mountain on June 29, 2021 in Valencia, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

"I never really saw myself doing a hybrid movie like this. Basketball is a big huge passion of mine and I was wanting to do a movie like He Got Game or Love and Basketball as opposed to something like Space Jam," Lee said in an interview with CBS Local's Ryan Mayer. "But, the opportunity to play on a very big canvas to play in a different sandbox was hard to pass up even though I was a little intimidated by it. Once I got over that fear and a lot of encouragement from friends and colleagues, it was like 'okay these are just storytelling tools that can help me achieve my vision."

25 years after the original Space Jam was released, A New Legacy takes on the story of LeBron and his son, Dom James (played by Cedric Joe) and the sometimes difficult connection between father and son. In the movie, LeBron wants his son to focus in on basketball while Dom, who enjoys basketball, is more interested in building his own video game. The relationship between father and son and how the pair navigate it was one of the big reasons Lee wanted to be involved.

"For me it was really the father son story at the core of this movie that really attracted me to do it. LeBron and having the schism with his son Dom, about what he should pursue and what Dom would want to pursue, being yourself and doing you," said Lee. "All of those things were really resonant for me. So besides all of the spectacle that's going to be in this movie, I can bring something to the table with that."

James is known for posting fun videos of him and his family on social media, which makes the driven, coach-like side of his character as a parent in the beginning of A New Legacy an intriguing departure from what we see of the Lakers star publicly. Lee says that it wasn't hard to get James to bring out that side because he wanted the movie to be great.

"At some points it was almost like he was being a little too tough on the kid. But, you have to put him at a point where he has to be able to grow and have an arc to his story. It's more shocking for audiences than it is for LeBron to bring out that side of himself where he's just like 'okay this is not how we do things.' I think he was being more teammate and captain of the team than he was a parent at that time because he is a very playful, loving dad," Lee said. "Getting him to do that wasn't very difficult at all because LeBron was game to do pretty much anything. He wanted to be great, he wanted the movie to be great. He loves being funny, he loves to be directed. It all kind of worked out in the right way and I love directing actors and I think he has some acting chops."

There are plenty of laughs and, as you'd expect with the Looney Tunes involved, loony and hi jinks are on the menu. With the movie premiering this week, Lee's hope is that people will go see it in the theater and that they will take away one central message.

"They can have a shared experience with their neighbors their friends and take away from it a good time at the movies and also a great message of letting children be themselves and having people blaze their own trail," Lee said. "Even though we as parents try to mold, guide our children in the right ways, children have to have the freedom and the support more than anything else to feel like they can try to do other things. That was one of the goals that we had for the movie, was to make that message come across and resonate."

Space Jam: A New Legacy premieres on Friday July 16 in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

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