Reg­gie Miller trans­for­ma­tion into ‘Un­cle Drew’ took bit longer than time of stan­dard NBA game


It took longer than a stan­dard NBA game for Reg­gie Miller to get into char­ac­ter for the “Un­cle Drew” movie.

Miller, 52, por­trays an el­derly, seem­ingly blind street­ball leg­end named Lights in the up­com­ing bas­ket­ball com­edy, and to phys­i­cally trans­form into the role, the NBA Hall of Famer re­peat­edly sat through a lengthy process where makeup artists ap­plied pros­thet­ics to his face and neck that made him ap­pear decades older.

“(It took) two and a half to three hours,” Miller told the Daily News. “Ev­ery. Sin­gle. Day.”

He wasn’t alone in mak­ing this trans­for­ma­tion. Miller’s co-stars Kyrie Irv­ing, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Nate Robin­son and Lisa Les­lie also turned into ag­ing bas­ket­ball stars for “Un­cle Drew,” which cen­ters on a team of play­ers in their 70s who re­unite for a tour­na­ment at Har­lem’s famed Rucker Park.

To cre­ate Miller’s griz­zled char­ac­ter, the movie’s pros­thetic de­sign­ers took a phys­i­cal im­pres­sion of his head and used it to de­sign his makeup. Ev­ery day on set, they placed syn­thetic, skin­like ma­te­ri­als based on that mold onto Miller’s face, ap­plied mul­ti­ple lay­ers of makeup, con­tin­u­ally dried their work with a blow dryer and added ar­ti­fi­cial fa­cial hair.

The long­time In­di­ana Pac­ers player went through this drawn-out pro­ce­dure — which was reg­u­larly fol­lowed by hours of film­ing — ev­ery week­day for at least a month.

“But I cher­ished that be­cause … ev­ery day, Shaq and Nate, we were all in the same trailer get­ting made up,” Miller said. “So the sto­ries and the laughs and the mu­sic, I learned so much in those three hours from those guys. Just laugh­ing so much, talking about bas­ket­ball, sports, pol­i­tics, life in gen­eral was fan­tas­tic.”

Miller’s makeup wasn’t quite as com­pli­cated as costars such as Irv­ing and Webber, ac­cord­ing to the film’s pros­thetic de­sign­ers Jonah Levy and Matt Silva, who coown the spe­cial ef­fects com­pany Blue Whale Stu­dios.

“We try very hard to ac­tu­ally gauge what they’re go­ing to look like when they age,” Silva told The News. “When we saw Reg­gie’s face, we see how lean he is, we see how he’s aged since he first started play­ing pro ball to now. He’s just not some­body who’s go­ing to age an ex­treme amount.”

Adds Levy, “We match their skin tones per­fectly so we can cre­ate cus­tom pros­thet­ics that will move and look like their own skin.”

The fam­ily flick due out Fri­day is based on a long-run­ning Pepsi cam­paign in which Irv­ing suits up as his grey-haired Un­cle Drew char­ac­ter and plays pick-up bas­ket­ball games against un­sus­pect­ing op­po­nents.

Miller’s char­ac­ter, mean­while, was the best shooter of his era, but he’s been out of the game for a while.

“I had to chan­nel my Saul Miller Sr. mo­ment and think of my dad and how he is now, and how he’s walk­ing and how he talks, his man­ner­isms and how he con­ducts him­self,” Miller said of get­ting into char­ac­ter.

“Lights’ char­ac­ter is sup­posed to be that cool un­cle you have who thinks he’s young, who wants to dress young in linen col­ors and the shorts and the high socks and the Fila shoes. He thinks he’s cool, he wants to be part of the lingo, but you’re like, ‘C’mon man you’re 70-plus years old. Act your age.’”

Miller says the bas­ket­ball scenes in “Un­cle Drew” are real shots of them ac­tu­ally play­ing — pros­thet­ics and all — and he and other play­ers made sure to give some on­court point­ers to their co­me­dian co-stars Lil Rel How­ery and Nick Kroll.

They also had im­pro­vi­sa­tional free­dom dur­ing a par­tic­u­larly zany scene in which their el­derly char­ac­ters get into a dance-off at a club with younger pa­trons.

“Nate is a great dancer. Kyrie — a fab­u­lous dancer. Shaq is just a goofy dancer. He’s just silly,” Miller said. “C-Webb and I, it took a lot for us to be like, ‘OK, you want us to do what now?’ We only had a day and a half to re­ally re­hearse, not only our scenes, but there was a group dance in there as well.

“A lot of the pop-lock­ing and all that was im­pro­vised,” he ex­plains. “A lot of peo­ple are say­ing, ‘Man, was there a stunt dou­ble used for your dance scene for any of us?’ We were like ‘Hell no, this has to be all of us.’”

Miller ex­pects movie­go­ers even who aren’t ma­jor NBA fans to en­joy “Un­cle Drew” due its un­der­ly­ing mes­sage about fam­ily. He says he was ea­ger to join the cast even be­fore he read the script for the movie af­ter learn­ing who his co-stars would be.

Clearly, it was a shot Miller couldn’t pass up.


Ac­tor/for­mer NBA player Reg­gie Miller at­tends the world pre­miere of “Un­cle Drew” on Tues­day at Alice Tully Hall at Lin­coln Cen­ter in New York City.

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