Wearing a tuxedo T-shirt, jeans and black shoes, Scot Pollard stood on stage Saturday night in more-than-a-century-old downtown theatre, Liberty Hall, fielding questions not about his days as a Kansas basketball player, but as star of the movie, “The Profit.”
“It was humbling to watch it on the big screen for the first time,” the 6-foot-11, 275-pound, 41-year-old Pollard told an audience of more than 100.
They were on hand for the premiere of a 90-minute feature film starring Pollard, Michelle Davidson, Joseph Anderson and Scott Allegrucci and directed by highly-acclaimed Lawrence film writer, director and KU professor of film Kevin Willmott.
“The first few times I watched it … it was not in a nice place like this. We worked hard on it. We did our best,” Pollard added.
The audience, which did not include many local sports personalities, seemed to enjoy watching Pollard portray Joseph “Profit” Smith, an injured nine-year NBA veteran who squandered $70 million in his career, and because of his dire financial status, needed to play one more year in the league to gain full NBA retirement benefits.
Smith in the film returned to his college campus (a school in Iowa) to mentor All-American Jamal “Big Chest” Chesterfield (played by Kansas City native Anderson) as well as steer him toward Pollard’s own, dishonest agent, played by native Kansan Allegrucci.
There’s also a love story in the film involving Pollard and Davidson, who plays a college compliance director. She is a Kansas City TV journalist and three-time regional Emmy award winning writer and producer.
“I thought Scot was great. He didn’t look like a rookie at all,” said Pollard’s former KU teammate, Greg Gurley, now director of development for KU’s Williams Fund. “This has been a project of his, something he’s always wanted to do. He’s been in some other movies no one has ever seen — as an axe murderer and stuff like that. His acting is really good. It’s that caveman face that will ruin his career,” Gurley added jokingly.
One professional film critic in the audience — The Kansas City Star’s Jon Niccum, who also had a small part in the film — gave Pollard more than passing grades for his convincing performance.
“Scot is a really good, naturalistic performer. He is used to being in front of the camera. I think he has a lot of power when he performs,” Niccum said of Pollard, the 10th-leading rebounder (850) and 34th-leading scorer (1,209 points) in KU history who last played for the NBA champion Boston Celtics in 2007-08. In all, he played 11 years in the league.
“Scot is very convincing in this movie because he’s playing a pseudo version of himself. I really appreciated his work in the movie,” Niccum added.
Willmott, who directed former KU basketball player Justin Wesley in the movie “Jayhawkers,” also lauded Pollard the actor.
“We knew he could play basketball,” Willmott told the audience, “but he’s (also) an actor, right?” he asked to enthusiastic applause.
Pollard acknowledged in an earlier interview with The Star that he didn’t expect to gain many friends following release of a movie that touches on unethical practices of agents, AAU coaches, college coaches, college administrators and the like.
“The NBA isn’t really going to love this movie. It doesn’t shed the NBA in a wonderful light. It doesn’t shed basketball in a wonderful light,” Pollard said. “It touches on AAU problems as I see them, being a detriment to basketball as a whole. It’s AAU, college, to the agents and coaches all along the way.
“The Mormons aren’t going to like the movie very much either,” added Pollard, who grew up in Utah, “with the main character named Joseph Smith and me making the main character into a dirtbag drinker, womanizer guy. They aren’t going to like that.”
Pollard said he hoped the low-budget movie might be played at some festivals with the possibility of general release. His ultimate goal would to be involved as executive producer of a TV show in the future, maybe one with the premise of “The Profit.”
“This movie started as a comedy where I thought it would be more a jovial punch below the belt at agents and the NBA and all that stuff,” Pollard said. “We edited it down and it just didn’t feel right. It felt right to make it a drama, so it’s a serious movie. There are actual, real actors who are very good actors, who donated their time. It was my budget, a very, very, very, very low budget, an ultra-low budget movie. We had to work around their schedule for them to do it for free. Kevin worked his butt off, a lot of other people did as well. It was a collaborative effort by a lot of people. What it leads to, I don’t know.”