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There is a rich history of professional athletes making the jump from their sport of choice to Hollywood. From Shaquille O’Neal having turns in films like “Kazaam” and “Steel” in the ’90s, to LeBron James setting himself up for a movie career after he’s done in the NBA, with “Space Jam: A New Legacy” under his belt, in addition to producing the “House Party” remake. I’m here to tell you, dear reader, that we may well have found our next big movie star hailing from the world of professional sports — the NFL in this case — and that man is Marshawn Lynch.
The former Seattle Seahawks running back is and always has been quite the personality, from eating Skittles on the sidelines at games to refusing to talk to the press during his tenure as one of the greatest players to ever play the position. But what is Lynch to do now, several years removed from retirement? Emma Seligman’s latest movie “Bottoms” makes an incredibly strong case that he should absolutely become a movie star. While easier said than done, Hollywood should pay attention because the man is magnetic, hilarious, charming, and impossible not to love, whether or not you know anything thing about football.
The film recently premiered at SXSW to an incredibly warm response from the crowd on hand. Written by Seligman and Rachel Sennott, it serves as the follow-up to “Shiva Baby” and centers on a pair of unpopular high school girls who start a fight club, billing it as a women’s empowerment/self-defense class, all in an attempt to try and impress a couple of cheerleaders. Lynch shows up unannounced in the film and, when I tell you he damn near steals the show out from under an impressively hilarious ensemble, I am not kidding.
The It-Factor Off The Field
I wholeheartedly believe “Bottoms” (read our review here) is going to find a big audience, as it’s a remarkably surprising movie. I won’t get into spoilers here but rather, I will say that, even as someone who loves the NFL and Marshawn Lynch, I would have had my doubts about him as a serious actor beyond a bit part here or there. Now? I want to see him in every movie ever from here on out. A romantic comedy with Jennifer Lawrence? Sign me up. A big action movie with Jason Statham? Yes, please. The next dramatic epic from Steven Spielberg? Do it, you cowards.
Mind you, my vanity does not extend so far as to feel that it’s worthy of me spilling all of this ink to argue an already-wealthy professional athlete should be handed an acting career on a silver platter. But sometimes, someone just has that “it” factor and it becomes clear they are more than one thing. Marshawn Lynch has “it” and he is more than a great football player: he’s downright magnetic on screen.
The way the crowd in that jam-packed was absolutely hooting and hollering when Lynch showed up in “Bottoms” unexpectedly was my first signal that something was happening here. From there on out, he ran with the ball and earned his laughs the hard way, and boy did he earn plenty of them. Maybe it was easy for him, but it certainly looked effortless; that’s the key. This doesn’t look like an athlete trying to stretch himself. This looks like a guy being naturally hilarious and charming in a way one simply can’t train themselves to be. It’s raw, unfiltered charisma, and we need more of it.
Why Not Marshawn Lynch?
Many people in that theater were at least tangentially familiar with Marshawn Lynch as an NFL player. The man next to me? He hailed from England and knows nothing of American football. He leaned over to ask, “Who is that?” when everyone cheered. He had no reason to care that a man who rushed for more than 10,000 yards in his career was mentoring a group of high school girls who are beating the s*** out of each other. Yet, by the time Lynch popped up in the credits, that man from England next to me cheered just as hard as anyone. He was won over purely on the strength of performance, and that’s the real point I’m trying to make here.
The 36-year-old has had bit parts in shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as well as commercials for games like “Call of Duty,” but this is different. He’s not playing himself and, when tasked with going toe-to-toe with very talented actors, he didn’t flinch. Perhaps there’s no greater evidence of Lynch’s ability to rise to the occasion than his appearance on Netflix’s “Murderville,” a mostly improvised comedy that saw a number of hugely talented people guest star. Yet, it was Lynch who delivered the best episode. He’s capable of doing that on a much larger stage, it turns out.
I don’t know what Lynch wants to do. The man may be content to just relax and enjoy retirement most of the time. I know this much though: if Jon Cena and Dave Bautista can go from professional wrestling to legitimate movie stardom as two of our most compelling actors working today, why can’t Marshawn Lynch go from NFL running back to character actor of sorts? Once “Bottoms” debuts to the masses, I find it hard to believe I’ll be the only one wanting to see more of him. Retirement can wait.
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