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The inspiration for JUST WRIGHT came from a deceptively simple concept: a Cinderella story set against the backdrop of the NBA. That phrase turned out to be the beginning of a six-year journey for Queen Latifah and her longtime producing partner Shakim Compere. "It's art imitating life,” says Compere. "When you think about it, Latifah's life has been a Cinderella story.”

The film's journey began modestly, in a barbershop in Studio City just north of the Hollywood Hills. That's where Compere, a childhood friend of Latifah and her partner in Flavor Unit Entertainment for over 20 years, ran into screenwriter Michael Elliot. "I mentioned that Latifah grew up playing basketball and Mike and I started talking about creating a movie based on that conversation,” remembers Compere. 

Combining romance and basketball seemed like a sure thing to the producer. "Anything basketball I'm a fan of,” says Compere. "Two of my favorite movies are LOVE AND BASKETBALL and HOOSIERS. Our main character, Leslie Wright, is a basketball fanatic who basically bumps into her favorite Nets player, played by Common. He invites her to a party. She brings her friend Morgan along and the guy ends up falling in love with Morgan.” 

The idea was an easy sell to Queen Latifah. "It wasn't a stretch for me,” says the Grammy® winning rapper-singer turned Oscar® nominated actress. "I definitely love basketball. And it's about the fact that it's not always what you look like, it's who you are from the inside. Beauty from the inside out is one of the themes that I have been interested in throughout my career. A lot of that comes across in this movie, and it comes across with humor, with sexiness, with style—and with basketball. Being from New Jersey and getting to work with the NBA and the Nets made it even sweeter.” 

The pair enlisted the help of Debra Martin Chase, who produced THE PRINCESS DIARIES and THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, to develop the idea into a screenplay. "From their concept, Mike Elliot and I crafted a story and created characters for a script that they loved,” says Chase. "At its heart, the film is about figuring out what's important in life. Should you be guided by what other people think about you and their values—or what's in your heart?” 

The part of Leslie Wright was tailor-made for Queen Latifah and her down-to-earth style, says Chase. "It is her story. It is her voice. There's nobody else who could play her. Leslie is really centered throughout the entire movie. She knows who she is when we meet her. She's got a good job. She's got a new house. She loves her family and she's got great friends. 

Although Leslie is extremely capable and independent, so far her love life has come up short. "She always winds up being that cool girl you can talk to for hours,” says Latifah, "but that romantic connection isn't there. She hasn't given up, but she's willing to wait for someone special. Until she finds him, she'll always have basketball.” 

The filmmakers knew the script would require a director with the skills to balance the emotional nuances of the love story with the high-energy action of the basketball sequences. Sanaa Hamri had previously worked with Chase on THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2 and had helmed fast-paced music videos for recording artists including Prince, Sting and Mariah Carey. 

"The game here was to make a movie that is heartfelt, romantic, sexy and thrilling,” says Chase. "Sanaa brought a strong sense of narrative. She also knows how to shoot beautiful scenery and beautiful composition. There's something very sexy about the way she puts the camera movements and the frames together.” 

Hamri was attracted to the easy way the script combined two seemingly disparate worlds. "The romantic comedy aspect of it is completely integrated with the NBA world,” she says. "It is a fresh, unique

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