40 Facts for the 40th Anniversary of Airplane!

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Really Wanted That Rug

The basketball titan of the time was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played the co-pilot role. It was meant to be a nod to a similar role that was played by football star Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch in the original muse film, “Zero Hour!” At first, ZAZ (short for Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker) wanted to get Pete Rose to play the minor role.

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Kareem-Abdul Jabaar, Rossie Harris, Peter Graves. Photo By Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

But the diamond legend was too busy doing what he does best (baseball) to be available for the August shooting schedule. The studio then offered Abdul-Jabbar $30,000 for the part. His agent was able to talk his fee up to $35,000. Why the extra five grand? Because it was the price of an Oriental rug that the Lakers star really wanted to buy.

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