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He Got Game
View the theatrical movie trailer of "He Got Game"
(4.5Mb QuickTime movie)

'Game' first box-office topper from Spike Lee

May 4, 1998
Web posted at: 4:54 p.m. EDT (1654 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Director Spike Lee has got a hit on his hands. His latest flick, "He Got Game," topped the box office this past weekend, taking in an estimated $8.1 million, according to preliminary figures released Sunday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

It was the first time one of Lee's movies has claimed the No. 1 box office ranking.

The movie, starring Denzel Washington and NBA player Ray Allen, depicts the story of convicted felon Jake Shuttlesworth and his estranged son, Jesus, the best high school basketball player in the country. In the film, Washington's character can win a shorter jail term if he convinces Jesus to attend the governor's alma mater.

Denzel Washington

'He had game'

The movie features plenty of basketball, including some one-on-one action between Washington and Allen, who currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. Washington told CNN he's not the basketball player he once was.

"Call it 'He Had Game: The Denzel Washington Story,'" he joked. "He had game."

But Washington did stray from the script and score against Allen.

"I had set him up by limping around for two months, acting like I couldn't play," Washington said. "Old man ain't stupid!"

Ray Allen

Lee, Washington together again

The film is also attracting attention for an interracial love scene between Washington and Milla Jovovich. When asked, Washington played down the scene.

"I didn't think about, to be honest with you, when we were shooting it or even when I read it, 'What are black women going to say, or white men going to say,'" Washington said. "I mean, (Shuttlesworth) has been in prison for six-and-a-half years. He's not seen a woman."

Feeling comfortable with the script may be related to the fact that Washington has worked with Lee before. Washington was nominated for an Oscar for his work in "Malcolm X," and he also starred in the Spike Lee joint "Mo' Better Blues."

Lee's "Malcolm X" actually earned more than "He Got Game" in its opening week, taking in $9.9 million -- but "Malcolm X" ranked only third, behind "Home Alone 2" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula." The past weekend was also the first one since November in which the top film failed to crack $10 million, Variety reported.

Correspondent Michael Okwu and Reuters contributed to this report.

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