Bryant thanks Rimes and Winfrey for their studio advice

JAY L. CLENDENIN/LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Laine Bryant arrive at
the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday at the
Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center
in Hollywood.

BY JESSICA GELT
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

After Kobe Bryant won an Oscar for best animated short, the former NBA champion took a question backstage in the press room about his “sheroes” by naming two Hollywood powers: Oprah Winfrey and Shonda Rhimes.

“The first person I called was Oprah,” Bryant said of his decision to start his own studio, adding that Winfrey has long been a mentor and that she spent over an hour with him on the phone, going into great detail about how she built her studio, Harpo.

Rhimes invited him to visit her production company, Shondaland, Bryant said.

“Shonda Rhimes is absolutely amazing,” he said, adding, “when you have mentors like that in your life, you get to learn from the best of the best.”

Nothing on case
The scene backstage made for an interesting moment in the #MeToo era, as social media was awash in consternation about the win for Bryant, accused of rape in 2004. That case was settled out of court in 2005.

None of this, however, was mentioned when Bryant took questions in the press room, where he appeared thrilled and breathless and was greeted with loud applause.

“It feels better than winning a championship, to be honest,” Bryant said.

“As a kid I grew up dreaming of winning a championship, but to have something like this coming out of left field … people asked, ‘What do you want to do when you retire?’ and I said, ‘writer.’ And they were like, ‘That’s cute,’ but to be here right now, to have a sense of validation — it’s crazy, man.”

As a writer
What’s the difference between playing basketball and writing for film?

“Playing basketball, the hardest thing to do is get out of the way of yourself,” he said. “As a writer you have to get in a deeper connection with yourself, to understand your fears beneath the surface, to communicate with them.”
Asked if he struggled working to establish himself in a new field, Bryant was sanguine.

“I’ve been hard at work for the last two years focusing on novels, writing a series of books that we’re looking forward to bringing those to the market,” he said.

“When you start over you have to quiet the ego — begin again. My advice to athletes first and foremost is to do the thing that you love to do. I wake up in the morning and I can’t wait to go to the studio.”

Worked with legend
The film’s score was by the inimitable John Williams, and Bryant was awed by the experience of working with the film legend.

Williams told Bryant that each key has its own soul.

“He’s a real Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Bryant said. “He was so energized he nearly knocked me over.”

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