When it comes to Hollywood, Ludacris isn’t concerned with attaching his name to the most projects, but he does want to be involved in the projects with the most quality.
So after the success of “Crash” and “Hustle & Flow” last year, Ludacris signed on to narrate “The Heart of the Game,” an independent documentary by filmmaker Ward Serril; Luda said he thought the film was meaningful. After seeing “Crash,” Serril was enthralled with Ludacris.
“He has one of the most tremendous voices,” the director said of Luda at the film’s New York premiere. “Just the resonance of his voice as an artist. But as a person, it’s powerful as well, in terms of the conviction of what he believes in. He was available; he loved the movie. I was so grateful to have his involvement.”
“He sent the documentary, I watched it, automatically loved it,” Ludacris said. “I told him, hands down, I wanted to be a part of this project. I will narrate it. Even further, I wanna go out on a campaign and market it as much as I can so as many people can go and see it as possible. … ‘Cause people hear ‘documentary’ all the time, and you may not be excited because a lot of people think it may be boring. But this is in no way boring.
“The most important thing to realize is that it is real life,” he added. “There are no actors. It’s not written out. It’s somebody following a team for seven years and getting all real-life situations. You don’t know how it’s gonna play out. So when you watch it, it touches your heart. It’s almost like a dream come true.”
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“The Heart of the Game” centers around eccentric high school basketball coach Bill Ressler and his Seattle girls team, the Roosevelt High Roughriders. Not only do the ladies face adversity on the basketball court, but in the court of law and at home, as well.
“I think I’m a really weird person,” said Ressler, who met the filmmaker at a mutual friend’s house. “[Serril] told me I was a character. Apparently I’m a big enough oddball, he thought I was worth filming. I do have a fairly unique way of coaching. I think he wanted to see what I was going to run into.”
The players had to get used to the constant presence of the cameras.
“At first it was annoying, [Serril] following us around the gym a lot,” said Ressler’s former star player, Darnellia Russell. “But after awhile, I got used to it like he wasn’t even there.”
Russell’s struggles are at the heart of the film. After a dramatic change in her life, not only is her dream of making it to the WNBA in jeopardy, but so is her academic status.
“Some of the stuff [Serril] captured, I didn’t even know he captured, and it was really emotional,” Russell said. “But for the most part, it was really cool.”
“I never knew where the story was taking me,” Serril said. “It’s a wander through the wilderness. It’s luck, providence and luck. I’m as amazed at the ending as anybody else.”
The story also amazed Ludacris, who said the film will be very inspirational for young girls.
“This film is great for the whole family, but young ladies in particular,” Luda said. “We got a lot of issues with self-esteem and self-confidence with young ladies in society. After watching something like this, they have no clue the impact it will have on their lives. Overcoming the different obstacles — that’s what this documentary is about. So when you see these young ladies and how many obstacles they overcame … it’s gonna give you self-confidence to make you realize you can accomplish anything.”
Luda recently relied on his self-esteem to get through a hurdle in court. The rapper and Kanye West were sued by East Orange, New Jersey group I.O.F. for allegedly copying portions of their record, “Straight Like That,” for “Stand Up,” which Kanye produced for Luda in 2003. Ludacris’ famous hook on the song goes, “When I move, you move, just like that.”
“I was doing that not only for myself, but for all of hip-hop,” Luda said, about fighting in court. “I was standing up for what I believed in. I wasn’t gonna let anybody take advantage of me like that. It’s not in me to let somebody walk all over me, so I fought to the very end. And it’s, like, 2 percent of those lawsuits that make it to trial. So that means 98 percent get settled out of court. I was not settling out of court. I knew I was right in the matter. I believed in myself, and as you can see, we reigned supreme.”
Luda’s next LP, Release Therapy, comes out in September. “The Heart of the Game” hits theaters Friday.
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