• Daniel Kanamori's hoop skills paid off in Hollywood.

    Photo / Stanley Hu

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Student drafted for basketball flick


When MIT comparative media major Daniel Kanamori '06 took more than a year off school to move to Los Angeles, he never expected to wind up sharing screen time with A-list movie star Samuel L. Jackson, but that is exactly what happened.

The aspiring actor and screenwriter had only been in Hollywood for a few months last year when he lucked into an audition for "Coach Carter." The film about a real-life high school basketball coach who benched his entire team for poor academic performance opened in January. It has grossed $65 million at the box office thus far.

Kanamori, a Brookline native and member of the MIT basketball team, was perfect for the part of one of the players. "Basketball is my one true love," said Kanamori, whose audition was essentially a basketball game. The familiar activity helped calm his nerves. "It just felt like I was trying out again for one of the Brookline street leagues."

During more than three months of filming, Kanamori said he learned much from Jackson, who has starred in dozens of films, including "Pulp Fiction" and "A Time to Kill." Kanamori said he often pulled Jackson aside to talk about the craft, something Jackson encouraged. Kanamori was impressed by Jackson's stage presence and by the way Jackson handled emotional and inspirational scenes. "When he did his scenes, you could hear a pin drop on the set," Kanamori said.

During the film's production in 2004, Kanamori stopped thinking of the actor as Samuel L. Jackson, famous actor, and started to think of him as Sam, friend and mentor. "Sam was such a great guy," said Kanamori, who was surprised to find that Jackson was also impressed by him. "He was always asking me about MIT and making jokes about astrophysics," Kanamori said.

For a little more than three months, Kanamori was called to the set almost every day, making new friends and great contacts. Though the few lines he had were left on the cutting-room floor, Kanamori is in nearly every scene.

Last fall, he decided to return to MIT to finish his degree before returning to Los Angeles. An MIT basketball game kept him from attending the movie premiere party, but some of his on-set friends did take time to call him during the premiere so he would not feel left out. "It was cool just to get the calls from them," he said.

Overall, Kanamori has been pleased with his Hollywood experience. In addition to his acting credits, which include a role in a low-budget independent film, Kanamori has a couple of scripts being circulated by a well-known director. So, it looks like Kanamori is well on the way to meeting his goals. "I am planning to be the next Matt Damon," he said, smiling.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 9, 2005 (download PDF).


Topics: Sports and fitness, Students

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