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Giannis Antetokounmpo Wanted His Film To Be About Family, And That Started With A Name Change

The incredible story of Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t center around him. It involves his whole family. When Disney Studios approached him in 2018 about creating a film, he knew it would be inspiring. “We came together as a family. We decided that it was something that we wanted to do.”

Giannis’ parents, Vera and Charles Antetokounmpo, moved from Nigeria to Greece to create a better life for their five children. It was there that Giannis and his brothers learned basketball, with their natural talent and hard work leading to professional basketball careers for four members of the Antetokounmpo family.

A scene still from Disney’s live-action RISE, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Our story is such an amazing story, where we started from and where we at right now,” Giannis said during the recent global press conference for the upcoming film Rise. ” Everybody talks about us, about me, Thanasis, Kostas, Alex, and Francis, but they always leave out our parents, my dad and my mom. We knew that one day we’re gonna tell them who the real hero of this story is, of this journey is.”

(L-R): Ral Agada as Thanasis and Uche Agada as Giannis in Disney’s live-action RISE, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The film began production with the working title of Greek Freak, Giannis’ nickname. “It’s a movie about my family,” according to Giannis. “It’s not a movie about me. As Thanasis said, ‘When someone scores, everyone scores; when one person makes it, everybody makes it.'”

The same sense of family they felt on the court translated into the film. “We had the same mentality and we always gonna have the same mentality, how can we share that joy?” continues Giannis. “The right name for this movie would be Rise and not Greek Freak.”

(L-R): Ral Agada as Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Dayo Okeniyi as Charles Antetokounmpo, and Uche Agada as Giannis Antetokounmpo in Disney’s live-action RISE, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Patrick Redmond. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It was Kostas Antetokounmpo who first came up with the idea to call the film Rise. “We were like, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s it,” says Giannis. “We started from nothing. And together, we rise as a family. And we’re gonna keep on rising together.”

Rise, the inspiring story of the Antetokounmpo family, is streaming now exclusively on Disney+.

About Rise

Audiences have never seen a story like that of the Antetokounmpos. After emigrating from Nigeria to Greece, Charles and Vera Antetokounmpo (Dayo Okeniyi and Yetide Badaki, respectively) struggled to survive and provide for their five children, while living under the daily threat of deportation. With their oldest son still in Nigeria with relatives, the couple were desperate to obtain Greek citizenship but found themselves undermined by a system that blocked them at every turn. When they weren’t selling items to tourists on the streets of Athens with the rest of the family, the brothers – Giannis (Uche Agada) and Thanasis (Ral Agada) – would play basketball with a local youth team. Latecomers to the sport, they discovered their great abilities on the basketball court and worked hard to become world class athletes, along with brother, Kostas (Jaden Osimuwa). With the help of an agent, Giannis entered the NBA Draft in 2013 in a long shot prospect that would change not only his life but the life of his entire family. And last season, Giannis and Thanasis helped bring the Milwaukee Bucks their first championship ring in 50 years, while Kostas played for the previous season champs, the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Rise” stars Dayo Okeniyi, Yetide Badaki, Manish Dayal, Taylor Nichols, introducing Ral Agada and introducing Uche Agada. The film was directed by Akin Omotoso (“Vaya”), written by Arash Amel (“A Private War”) and produced by Bernie Goldmann (“300”). Giannis Antetokounmpo and Douglas S. Jones served as the executive producers.

As The Bunny Hops®