Whatever happened to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's movie career? Sure, he wasn't about to win any Oscars, but was pretty solid for a basketball star turned actor. His Airplane! role, as the copilot Roger Murdock ("Roger, Roger," "What's our vector, Victor…" you know the rest) marked the beginning of a spotty post-NBA acting and voicework career, mostly playing himself. Abdul-Jabbar's motives to branch out may not have been artistically pure, but he did have a natural charisma that, in addition to his colossal height, made him (ahem) stand out.
While talking Airplane! with the A.V. Club, co-directors David and Jerry Zucker said they offered Abdul-Jabbar a cool sum of $30,000 for the role—and the hoopster's manager got back to them with a very "creative" reason for a slight hike in rate.
"The agent asked for $35,000 because that's how much this rug cost that Kareem wanted to buy," said Zucker. "It was an oriental rug—an art piece, not one to walk on, I don't think—so our initial reaction was, 'That's got to be the best line we've ever heard from an agent'…a couple of weeks later, there's an article in Time with a picture of Kareem standing in front of the oriental rug."
At least Abdul-Jabbar was up-front about his reel requirements.