Jonathan Majors to play Dennis Rodman in ’48 Hours in Vegas’: ‘I never put a ceiling on myself’

In just three months, Jonathan Majors has garnered widespread praise for his Sundance premiere “Magazine Dreams” and pulled off a rare box office feat, but his career’s ascent shows no signs of peaking any time soon. Only days after “Creed III” posted a $58 million opening weekend, a record for both the “Rocky” franchise and sports movies at large, and earned Majors the distinction of starring in consecutive top earners –“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” won the weekends leading up to “Creed’s” March 3 release – news broke that the in-demand actor is signing up for not one, but two high-profile projects: “Da Understudy,” a story of backstage obsession and jealousy on Broadway that’s eyeing Spike Lee to direct, and “48 Hours in Vegas,” a dramatization of Dennis Rodman’s sojourn in Sin City during the 1998 Bulls season.

This infamous, stranger-than-fiction bit of Chicago sports history should be familiar to anyone who tuned in for ESPN’s “The Last Dance.” Check out a clip of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Rodman recalling the events below.

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Since the raucous tale ends with Rodman’s most famous teammate dragging him out of bed, we can assume Jordan is more prominently featured in this film than in “Air” (April 5), which traces the development of Nike’s branding deal with the GOAT but reportedly relegates him to the story’s periphery.

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To heighten the story’s dramatic stakes, Rodman’s jaunt through the desert with Carmen Electra will be shifted from January to June 1998, when the ‘90s dynasty was fighting to complete its second “3-peat” and win one more championship. Rodman did ditch the team between Games 3 and 4 of the series (the Bulls were leading the Utah Jazz 2-1), but to wrestle with Hulk Hogan in Michigan, not to party in Las Vegas.

That spontaneous trip caused something of a PR nightmare for coach Phil Jackson and the Bulls’ front office. Speaking with reporters at the time, Jackson played it cool and suggested that reports of strife were fabricated by the media. “He’s only taking your focus away from the Finals, not ours,” he famously declared. But Jackson didn’t hesitate to express his unease behind closed doors. 

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The eccentric power forward’s appearance on WCW earned him $250,000. Even deducting the $20,000 Rodman had to pay in league fines, that still certainly makes it one of the most profitable instances of rule-breaking in NBA history. Rodman would go on to grab 14 rebounds in Game 4, a series high, and, following two more contests with the Jazz, win his fifth and final championship ring. 

The creative license being taken leaves us with a few questions: Will the trip to Vegas cause Rodman to miss games, as he did in real life? If so, how much more of the 1998 Finals will be rewritten (considering Rodman returned from his Michigan trip in time for Game 4)? Since separate incidents are being condensed into a single event, will we get to see Rodman kick back with Hulk Hogan? How big a role, if any, will #23 play? Will Rodman’s rapport with Jackson, what the latter called their “Native American bond,” be tied in? Finally, which of the iconoclast’s dye jobs will Majors wear? There are the platinum blonde and cheetah print variations, but you can’t go wrong with leopard neon-green.  

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From his imposing physicality to his punctuated vocal style, Majors will have no trouble disappearing into the role. Speaking with the Associated Press, the actor said, “I never really put a ceiling on myself, but this is definitely a role where I’m pushing that ceiling out. Because he demands that. He’s such a full individual, so he’s going to demand a lot and I have to figure out how to get that.”

The decision to tell the eccentric power forward’s story with this framework is an inspired one, promising the film will be more of a comedic thriller in the vein of “Miles Ahead” than a traditional sports biopic. It’s only fitting that a feature about Rodman is as singular as he is. 

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