Stephen Curry: Underrated is out now on Apple TV+ everywhere. So, we had a conversation with Peter Nicks, the director of the film, and Sean Havey (producer) to talk about how this intimate documentary allows us to see the most personal version of Stephen Curry and how his story becomes a powerful universal theme.
As a Cavs fan, I struggled before watching the film because I was afraid to find a hyperbolic version of one of the most famous athletes alive and the one who literally has taken away the hope of my favorite NBA team to win championships. But guess what? I loved the documentary! It is a raw version of the human behind the global recognition; the story of a family kid who people underestimated for not looking like others expect him to look until he proved success comes from within.
Therefore, we invite you to read what Peter Nicks and Sean Havey (who, indeed, are two of the nicest people alive) told us about this exciting documentary called Stephen Curry: Underrated.
A powerful universal theme
JV: You have been working together for quite a time now, and your films always portray a close view of social injustices and equity claims from the perspective of those who suffer systemic exclusion. So, having that in mind, how did you develop the idea of Stephen Curry: Underrated? How was the whole process of you two saying: you know what, Curry is our next project?
PN: You know, mainly, we have been making documentaries about institutions in Oakland, California, going back to The Waiting Room, which is a film about access to healthcare. That is how I met Ryan Coogler.
Right at the beginning of this project, he and Steph, I think, were talking. He said: “Steph, you know, expressed some interest in you, see in us telling his story given our background and telling stories in in in the Bay Area.” And that’s really how it began. And for us, what would attract me to it initially wasn’t just that he was a celebrity. I mean, that was part of it, that the opportunity to tell Steph’s story was intriguing, but as we learned about sort of the connection he represented.
You know, being this undersized, underrated, misunderstood player that it’s sort of echoed Oakland itself to some degree and that that sort of thematic connection really drew me in, and also that he wanted to sort of tell his origin, His origin story wasn’t so much about him now as it was, you know, he wanted to tell the story of how he came to be in the role that his family, the community of this tiny college, Davidson College and outside of Charlotte played in his ability to reach his full potential, sort of thematically felt sort of consistent with the work that we’ve been doing.
JV: I saw the documentary and must say it is honest, intimate, self-reflecting, and inspiring. But I am a Cavs fan, so Mr. Curry is like my team’s nemesis (laughs). Therefore, before watching the film, my biggest fear was thinking that the documentary could be nothing but a fan-service movie. So, how did you manage the idea of making a documentary about a global basketball icon who might have as many fans as people who d not like him or even want to see him fail?
SH: (laughs) Oh, Come on! But, you are a fan now, don’t you? (laughs)
PN: (Laughs) Well, I respect that.
SH: I mean, Pete and I seek to always express the truth of, you know, the characters and stories that we put on screen. And it’s just that he embodies the hard work and conflict you see in the film, and it’s kind of undeniable that he deserves it. What he gets, you know, and I think, yeah, it’s just in, it’s just embodied in his day-to-day life, as he works really, really hard.
Not that LeBron doesn’t; obviously, he does too. But unlike LeBron and some other, you know, A-plus athletes. Yeah, like nobody early on really cared about stuff. He knew that he could do something greater than maybe His physical limitations would lead you to believe he was capable of, but like the people, the gatekeepers mostly did not see that in him and that’s why we leaned into the relationship with him and Bob Mckillop very early on in the film because it’s just honest to his story, and Bob saw that in him because he too was a very scrappy you know short for a basketball player.
You know, just generally undersized. So, he saw some of himself and stuff and that sort of mentorship and access to a D1 school because he wasn’t getting offers right. He did not get any other D1 offers, and so! It was just very much honest to his story.
PN: And just that that that sort of like speaking to. You know how audiences might react to the movie who either aren’t sports fans or are rabid fans of another team for, you know, like you described it as your nemesis and, well, we recognized pretty early upon both meeting him and also learning of his story, his origin story that this notion of underrated, really understanding what that meant in his life.
But that was a really powerful universal theme that I think for with the exception of a very tiny minority of human beings on this planet, we’ve all felt at one time or another not seen or not validated and that that would, you know, bring audiences into the story.
Just so inspiring
JV: Stephen Curry: Underrated makes me feel nothing but respect for that boy who persisted and now is a global reference who changed basketball for good. However, my favorite part is seeing how you involved family and formal education in the life of a person everyone knows for his basketball skill. So, thinking that not every person gets to be an elite sports player, what is your message to all those young people who are about to see or already saw the documentary?
SH: I mean, I keep coming back to, and it feels a little bit like an after-school special, but honestly, he’s just so inspiring. I mean, like he, despite the sort of physical limitations he had, he put that hard work in.
And I think it’s just a great example! If you do that, maybe, sure, you’re not going to win four NBA championship rings, but you will yield results, right? And so it’s just sort of strength in the face of adversity. I think he embodies that.
PN: Yeah! And it’s both. And it’s not. I mean, I think there’s going to be that this is a film that young people when they watch this, they’re going to take away a lot of inspiration in different ways. Everybody’s got different dreams, hopes, and aspirations.
I also think it’s going to be there’s going to be an important takeaway for adults, you know, for those of us who could have to make a choice whether to mentor a young person and think about the role of your family to make a huge difference.
You know, we all need someone who accepts us for what we are and how we are. We can all feel related to that. We all need to listen to that!
JV: Have you ever felt underrated?
PN: Oh, man, I feel underrated! I am a documentary filmmaker (laughs). And I am a partner with Ryan Coogler, who made a film like Fruitvale Station, and he has been working with movie stars and making Marvel movies, but documentaries are really struggling. You struggle with people to pay attention, you struggle with critics to understand you, and you even struggle to get into festivals and raise money. (Laughs) So, I deeply relate to that: being underrated!
SH: (Laugh) I can go on too. We all feel underrated at times in our lives! I was a kid from New Jersey who grew up in an apartment next to a highway, which is quintessential Jersey stereotyped, and now I am making movies about star athletes who drive around in Lamborghinis. Pete saw something in me like Bob Bob Mckillop saw something in Stephen Curry, and here we are now.
JV: What other plans do you have for the future?
PN: Oh, man, we are trying to get Sean from the producer’s chair to the director’s chair. We are excited about the future of nonfiction storytelling!
SH: Hire me! (Laughs)
JV: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
SH: Go and watch the movie, please!
PN: Yeah, watch Underrated and let me know what you think! DM me! (Laughs).
Before we go
So, it does not matter if you are a Stephen Curry fan because Underrated is a human experience that tells how doing your best to achieve your goals could be your life purpose. By watching the documentary, you will see this four times NBA champion up close and personal like never before, just like you would see him if you were beside him.
One of the things I liked the most was seeing how Peter Nicks unveils a hero with insecurities like everyone else, a young man who comes to realize all is about the choices we make; it is the inspirational and self-reflective story of how sometimes greatness comes from the options we get from other that see in us what other don´t!
You will see that Stephen Curry might not have won all of the games, but he has never lost, and neither will we if we do not give up on our journey to achieve what we deserve.
Love, and go for it!