It was with that generosity in mind that James went about writing his script for "Here Comes the Boom," a comedy about a high school teacher (James) who goes on the small-time mixed martial arts circuit to raise money for his school's struggling music program.
While writing, James was fixated on the idea of creating a role for his friend and trainer Bas Rutten, a former MMA fighter who trains James in real life.
"I had sort of seen him around [Los Angeles] and I knew he worked with people, and I thought, how cool would it be to have this guy as a trainer? And as I got to know him, I saw that he was this really unique character, with a ton of charisma. I wanted to get him on camera."
James wrote him into "Boom" as a pro who trains the teacher to fight, and coaches him in the ring. James said his instincts were correct - test screenings show that moviegoers, especially younger ones, get a big kick out of Rutten.
"People are loving him, and I'm really excited for him," James said.
And for himself - with Rutten getting the laughs, James had a chance to do some more serious acting in "Boom."
"I get to be almost a straight man for a change, with all of these colorful characters around me" - Henry Winkler is a daffy music teacher, Salma Hayek the school nurse.
It's a comedy, of course, but James said audiences are plugging into its inspirational, pro-education message, something about which James is sincere.
"I had some great teachers in the past, which I realized when I was writing this. I realized that to this day, I remember things they told me 30 years ago. You realize what an impact they had, and I wanted that in the script," said James, who named the movie's school principal (Mr. Betcher) after the man who was his junior high principal.
James said he'd like to give even more serious drama a try, but is not waking away from comedy - in his next movie, "Valets," he stars alongside comedian Kevin Hart.
Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at philly.com/KeepItReel.