How Shaquille O’Neal and legendary artist Joe Zucker impacted the poignant high school basketball documentary ‘Killer Bees’
Did you know that, in the art world, the basketball legend is known as Shaqasso? Now you do.
A powerful and honest account of both the titular basketball team and the Bridgehampton high school that they call home’s struggle to stay open in The Hamptons, Killer Bees is one of the most eye-opening documentaries about race, income inequality and gentrification in recent memory.
But while the directing team of Ben and Orson Cummings deserve most of the credit for overseeing “Killer Bees,” the brothers have acknowledged that the film just wouldn’t have been the same without the impact of two hugely different figures.
The first is Shaquille O’Neal, the legendary basketball star who is an executive producer on ”Killers Bees.” But how exactly did Shaquille O’Neal get involved?
“We were introduced to Shaquille through one of Orson’s old tennis clients, who is Glenn Fuhrman, who came on as executive producer,” Ben explained.
“He is very active in the art world, and Shaq, who in the art world goes by the name Shaqasso, did a show for him. We showed Glen a work sample, and he wanted to get onboard, and he said, ‘I am going to show it to my friend Shaq.’”
“Shaq, who has 12 million Twitter followers and is one of the most recognizable sports figures in the world, has been a really big help getting the message about the movie out there.”
“Shaw was there from the beginning, too,” added Orson. “We had only done a two minute teaser from the first week of shooting. So he got involved right away. He really connected to the kids and the story.”
“He really got involved early and that was great. It gave us a big boost to make it and make it to the end. And now as we try to show it he is a big part of it.”
“He is coming down in August for a couple of events to promote the film. He is great. He is terrific. We got to meet him, and he is a really nice guy, he is as big as everyone says and is a sweetheart.”
Orson also revealed that O’Neal was very much involved in some of the creative decisions for “Killer Bees,” too.
“He got involved in stuff like the music, we talked to him about what we were going to use. We showed him an early cut, and he had some opinions and thoughts that were obviously really helpful.”
“He knows a lot about the game and a lot about the story from his own point of view. So, yeah, he saw some early cuts and helped us to curate the music. He was really involved, so that was terrific.”
But while Shaquille O’Neal’s impact and influence was only really felt behind the scenes, one of the most important figures that actually appears in “Killer Bees” is Joe Zucker.
Who by day is one of the most renowned American artists in modern history, and by night is the assistant coach for the “Killer Bees,” which he does for free.
“Coach Carl had told us about Joe. So before we met him we knew who he was and his relationship with the team,” explained Orson.
“Personally, we just really hit it off with. He has become a real friend. We so admire, he donated his time for 20 years to be the assistant coach of that team. And, obviously, as you saw in the film he loved it. It was his chance to get out of that box that is his studio, where he spends 8-10 hours a day.”
This provoked Ben to add, “The other thing that I would mention about Joe that was so fantastic, asides from just how insightful he is, how smart he is, he also played division one basketball, so he know the game. He also has an incredible sense of humor.”
“The subject matter can get pretty serious. So it was great to have someone like him offer some levity. So he does give a counter-point. When he’s up there he makes you smile. He makes you laugh."
"And he is also quite serious, and makes important points. But it was nice to have someone with that wit and sense of humor.”
“Killer Bees” is now in select New York and Los Angeles cinemas.