Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Read This: The sweet, sad story behind Shaq’s rapping genie comedy Kazaam

Illustration for article titled Read This: The sweet, sad story behind Shaq’s rapping genie comedy iKazaam/i

It’s Kazaam‘s turn on the chopping block over at the How Did This Get Made? podcast, with Paul Scheer and company dissecting the misbegotten 1996 genie comedy starring NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. Meanwhile, at Slash Film, writer Blake Harris has assembled an oral history explaining how the film really did get made, and it turns out to be a surprisingly poignant and dramatic story. At the time of the film’s production, director Paul Michael Glaser (best known as half of TV’s Starsky And Hutch) was reeling from the tragic death of his wife and was eager to throw himself into a creative project. As it happened, a career opportunity arose: Would he like to make a movie with Shaquille O’Neal? Glaser’s answer was yes, but he had only had the vaguest of ideas about Shaq portraying a genie for some reason. And there was a catch: The film had to be completed very quickly to fit into its star’s busy schedule. Two talented but often combative writers, Christian Ford and Roger Soffer, got the assignment to write the script for Kazaam, but the job proved to be a bigger challenge than either of them expected. (As a bonus, Ford and Soffer dish about an abandoned Ninja Turtles sequel that sounds like a bigger trainwreck than Kazaam.)


The hapless writers wound up acting as go-betweens for Glaser and the film’s producers, as these two warring camps had very different ideas for what Kazaam should be. Siskel and Ebert accused the film of being a cynical cash grab, and that was probably what the studio wanted all along. But Glaser wanted to make a much more serious, emotional film. Ford and Soffer tried without success to find some middle ground between the two extremes, and the final result was a film that was neither a creative nor a financial success for anyone involved. At least, everyone reports, Shaq was a consummate professional and a complete joy to work with. The failure of Kazaam is often laid at his (enormous) feet, but the people behind the movie insist that it’s a bad rap. And speaking of bad rap, the film did at least find success in one field. Christian Ford proudly reports that Shaq’s “We Genie” was “a hit in Brazil for some reason.”

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