Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. and his family — wife Cookie, daughter Elisa and sons Andre and EJ — were joined by a star-studded roster of celebrities and professional athletes as they attended the premiere of “They Call Me Magic” at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood on Thursday night.
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, the four-part Apple TV+ docuseries explores the personal and professional life of the basketball legend, as well as his lasting cultural impact, through a series of interviews with Johnson and his family, friends and fellow athletes.
Johnson’s life and rise to basketball glory was recently depicted in the HBO drama miniseries “Winning Time,” though the NBA champion previously told Variety he was not consulted on the project and had no plans to watch the show.
On the red carpet at the premiere, Johnson indicated that he may have his own plans to create a feature film or miniseries based on his life. “Yep!” Johnson told Variety with a wide smile when asked if he would like to be involved in a new production.
However, Johnson was uncertain about which actor he would want to portray him — “I have to think about that,” he said. But he would recruit some of his closest actor friends, like Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington to be featured in it.
With “They Call Me Magic,” though, the Olympic gold medalist admitted that he’d abstained from watching the docuseries before the premiere event because he feared that his perfectionism would lead him to interfere with the process.
“It would never come out,” he laughed. “I’m just a perfectionist. I want everything to be done the right way, so that’s why I didn’t see it. I let the professionals do their job.”
In fact, it was everyone in the Johnson family’s first time watching the footage. “We wanted to wait and be surprised,” Cookie Johnson explained, adding that her husband usually “never watches even any of his interviews. But this time, tonight, he’s going to.”
Overall, Magic Johnson hopes audiences will be inspired by his story.
“There’s ups and downs in life,” he explained. “And how you handle those situations is important. Everything has not gone great. I’ve had some struggles, but I came back from those struggles.”
From growing up poor to his 30 years living with HIV and even being nicknamed “Tragic Magic” after losing to Larry Bird, Johnson never let hardships define him or get him down.
“There was a big struggle and hard times, but I’m a guy who deals with everything head on, straight on,” he added. “I tell the truth. A lot of people don’t like that sometimes, but I’m an honest guy. That’s how I live my life. I’m glad I’m like that because it’s also helped a lot of people too.”
Famuyiwa, who Johnson personally selected to helm the docuseries, heaped praise on the star. “They don’t make them like him anymore,” he said.
The “Dope” director also hinted at working with another cultural icon for his next documentary.
“Hopefully this gentleman over here,” he said, gesturing to Stevie Wonder, who was standing nearby. “We are working on him. Hopefully.”
When EJ Johnson, Magic’s son, sat for his interview for “They Call Me Magic”, he discussed his relationship with his father and shared the story of how he came out as gay.
“I’m grateful that we continue to get closer and closer every year,” he reflected on the carpet. “We just continue to love each other more. We have such a unique and powerful bond that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world and I think it’s because we forced each other to grow in that moment.”
Also attending the premiere were Johnson’s Lakers teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, Norm Nixon, Jerry West, Stephen A. Smith, Patricia Arquette, Don Cheadle, Courtney B. Vance, Tina Knowles-Lawson and Richard Lawson.
“They Call Me Magic” will premiere globally April 22 on Apple TV+.