Uncle Drew‘s evolution from fun commercial idea to a full-fledged movie with a wide release is fascinating, as they managed to extract a legitimate story that entertained audiences (Cinemascore: A, Rotten Tomatoes: 66 percent) out of an initial concept that was “what if we made a current basketball player look old so he can mess with people at a park.”
That transformation of making Kyrie Irving into Uncle Drew himself, as well as the rest of the cast of NBA and WNBA legends, is one of the keys to the movie’s comedic element, as watching old people dominate on the basketball court is inherently funny. Blue Whale Studios was the team in charge of aging Irving, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Lisa Leslie, and Nate Robinson into senior citizens for the film, and in doing so, they spent an awful lot of time with the cast.
The makeup process could take up to four hours each day, depending on the person, as they had to layer various prosthetics and do makeup and hair over top. Blue Whate co-founders Matt Silva and Jonah Levy spoke with Uproxx Sports about that daily process, their experience working with Kyrie Irving, and their favorite stories from their time on set with some NBA legends.
Kyrie’s Uncle Drew was obviously a known character, but a lot of the others are new to the Uncle Drew universe if you will. What was the process of coming up with the looks for each of the characters and what were the inspirations behind those?
Jonah: Yeah, so I’ll tell you. This was one of the most exciting and challenging projects at the same time. Part of the thrill of it, honestly, was being able to sit back and talk with Charles, the director, and some of the producers, and just start coming up with some really exciting characters. What we do in the beginning is go into Photoshop, and go into some different design programs, and just start designing characters before we even put clay to a lifecast. That is a really great process because it gives you the initial back and forth, and the initial rapport with the creative team and with the team bringing the film to life.
That’s always a neat part because you’re just kind of creating something from scratch. It’s a really fun process, and for us, some of the cast hadn’t even been locked in yet. We were having to kind of imagine these characters based on the descriptions from Charles, but without knowing who they were.
Matt: One of the first things we had to do, because there weren’t a locked down cast of characters yet. We knew who was written in the script, as far as the characters name and their appearance, their characteristics, a personality. We had like a wishlist of athletes, and that was one of the biggest struggles that we faced through almost up to the first day of filming. It was like, who was going to play that character? When doing these big makeup sets, that’s really difficult because we need as much time to create from scratch their looks.
But, working with Charles Stone, the director, he was so amazing. We sat down and had a creative meeting. We talked about the personalities, the heart of these characters, and then from there we went back to the lab and tried to best project who we thought these people were in their designs. Considering that it’s a comedy, these are supposed to be characters that are memorable. They’re not just old age makeups, they’re a little larger than life. That’s a big part of what propelled us in the different designs.
Jonah: In the past you might have five to six months a year to go through these kind of designs, and come up with really locked in things. You may know your actors already, and in this case, we had six weeks at best, some of them two weeks, from the time they cast them to being their first day on screen, which is insane, but an amazing challenge, which we were really happy to take on.