There was a time (before he was gunning for titles) when Shaquille O’Neal wanted to be a movie star. Shaq, a charismatic, enormous superstar who easily appealed to children and took up a lot of space on a screen, managed to get a few roles in before the turn of the century. In Kazaam, which was something of a flop and one of the strangest movies of all time, he played an absurd rapping genie who lived in a boombox. He also appeared in Steel, a DC Comics movie, where he played a very strong metal man, one of the many abysmal superhero movies that had the misfortune of being released a few years before anyone figured out how to make one of those things.
His performances in both of these movies are probably best described as “a little much.” Shaq is charismatic, certainly, but his line readings are a little wooden and the material — a pre-2000 superhero movie and maybe the most absurdly-plotted Hollywood movie ever released — didn’t do him any favors.
But, Shaq’s acting career hasn’t been all nonsense. He was sly and funny on as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm, playing a victim of Larry David’s leg placement malfeasance, and he is straight-up interesting in Blue Chips — shot before he was even in the league — playing a raw basketball prospect with a deep well of suspicion reserved for white America.
Charismatic and gravelly voiced, with an unparalleled physically-dominating presence on screen, there is no reason to believe that, with a little bit of work and a role that would preserve and stroke his talents, that Shaq couldn’t become an actor of note, a professional who brings a big, weird flavor to everything he appears in.