SHADOW & ACT started their coverage on DJANGO UNCHAINED with a very tough, negative tone. I appreciate that they have been more opened minded as the story has unfolded. This could have been a really mean piece, but it was quite lovely and I really appreciate it.
"Hudlin is a modern-day Gordon Parks, a true monster in the game that totally re-did the blueprint: what some people used to call a renaissance man. I dig him because he made me think outside of the box. Hudlin writes and directs movies, pens a comic book, and he was running BET. That’s multi-tasking for your ass."
- Cultural critic Jimi Izrael
The resume of the Oscar-nominated producer, Reginald Hudlin, reads like a who’s who list of Hollywood. He has worked with the best in black Hollywood, and the best in mainstream Hollywood. He is one of the major visionaries of the modern black film movement. He began his career creating movies like HOUSEPARTY, BEBE’S KIDS, and BOOMERANG.
He produced Quentin Tarantino’s latest film DJANGO UNCHAINED, starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Don Johnson. The film has won two Golden Globe awards, has been nominated for five Oscars, and it is on track to be the top grossing Western of all time.
On Monday night, Shadow and Act caught up with Mr. Hudlin right before he gave the keynote address at the 2013 Pan African Arts and Film Festival. He spoke very briefly to us about the highlight of his Oscar season journey, his partnership with RZA, whether he'll direct again, his thoughts on the state of black Hollywood, and a little more.
Shadow and Act: Congrats on your Oscar nomination! Can you tell us about one highlight from your Oscar journey so far? It’s all so exciting.
Reginald Hudlin: Thank you. It’s been surreal. I was at the annual Oscar nomination luncheon the other day and there is a moment during the program where everyone nominated is called to stand up in front of everyone. When my name was called, I realized that Robert De Niro was standing behind me, Helen Hunt was on my other side, and Steven Spielberg was right beside her. It felt amazing to be among a group of people of that caliber.
Shadow and Act: What more can you tell us about your new partnership with RZA in terms of what brought you two together, as well as what else we can expect from the partnership in terms of projects you're working on, or considering, and if there's a timeline for when you want to start pushing films out?
Reggie Hudlin: RZA and I have been friends for a long time. We both have the wonderful experience of working with Quentin Tarentino. RZA is a guy that is very encouraging and giving to other filmmakers. He’s just that kind of spirit. And that’s nothing that you see with everybody. We always love the same things, Kung Fu movies, and a Black Nationalist side to us. We always wanted to kind of work together, and we asked ourselves aren’t we doing that? There’s one project and were putting together the cast, and were working on some other projects in development.
Shadow and Act: Will you direct again?
Reggie Hudlin: Absolutely! There are no projects that I can talk about yet.
Shadow and Act: - Talk about the positive and not-so positive changes you've witnessed in Black cinema over the years, since you and your brother came on the scene with the successful House Party movies, through today, 20 years later.
Reginald Hudlin: There was a period that black film had no chance of making it in Hollywood. So, people just made the made the statements that they wanted to make. Whether it was a science fiction film or whatever, b/c they were just making movie for themselves. Then there was a period where people were creating projects as their Hollywood audition ‘pieces’. I feel that today we are moving back to the era where we all have our own voices.
Shadow and Act: Are there any young filmmakers that you have your eye on?
Reginald Hudlin: Hadjii made a splash at Sundance a few years ago with the film, “Somebodies.” We actually gave him a scripted TV series at BET and it had incredible reviews. I believe that he is one of the many talented filmmakers to watch. Peter Ramsey was the storyboard artist on ‘Boomerang.’ He’s another one to watch.
Shadow and Act: There's been some talk about the current young generation of filmmakers not being aware of the work of their predecessors, and even not honoring and respecting them. As one of those who's been around for a bit, coming up during that late 1980s, early 1990s black cinema boom, a who made some iconic black films, any thoughts on that?
Reginald Hudlin: Young filmmakers are supposed to be the young turks that advance the current state of filmmaking ideas. At the same time, if you don’t know your film history or knowledge, then you are not in the game.
Shadow & Act: Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
Reginald Hudlin: I just produced the 2013 NAACP Image Awards, which garnered really high ratings. I have several projects in development for TV and film.
While Hollywood is currently celebrating the success of Will Packer‘s Think Like A Man, having grossed over $90M at the box office, it wouldn’t be the first time a black romantic comedy has crossed passed $50M mark. There have been others, but today marks the 20th anniversary of the most successful black romantic comedy, ‘Boomerang.’
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, who previously had success with his debut film, ‘House Party,’ ‘Boomerang’ starred the reigning box office king at the time Eddie Murphy, a relatively unknown Halle Berry, and a host of comediennes who were just getting their feet wet in the film world (Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Chris Rock). Along with veterans Eartha Kitt, Grace Jones, John Witherspoon, Geoffrey Holder, and Tisha Campbell-Martin memorable in her scenes with Murphy, the film was a box office smash, grossing $70M domestically, and a worldwide total of $131M.
Murphy played Marcus Graham, a high-powered ad exec who’s the classic ladies’ man. Debonair and a chauvinist, Marcus believes he has to keep bedding women until he’s found the right one to settle with. When he meets and wants the beautiful Jacqueline Broyer (Robin Givens), who also happens to be his boss, little does he know that she’s exactly like him. It’s a game of cat and mouse, with Marcus desperately looking for love in the wrong places.
Although he went on to direct a few more films such as The Great White Hype, The Ladies Man, and some episodes on various TV shows, Hudlin found better success as the President of Entertainment for BET from 2005-2008, and at the same time was the writer of the Marvel Comics series Black Panther from 2005 to 2008. His latest project puts him back in the spotlight as the Illinois native- Harvard grad is one of the producers of the most anticipated films coming out this winter, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
Blackfilm.com caught up with Hudlin as he reflects on the 20th Anniversary of Boomerang, his thoughts on a possible Black Panther film, and his involvement with Django Unchained.
How much of the film was put together by you and Eddie?
Reginald Hudlin: It was originally an idea from Eddie and the script came from the guys he had worked with on Saturday Night Live. They gave it to me and the basic structure was about a player who meets his match. The resolution was different from what we had planned. At the end of the movie, Halle Berry’s character left New York and went to work at her parents’ dairy farm. In the last scene, Eddie rejoins her, wins her back, and the last shot was him milking a cow. That’s not what you saw in theaters. My thing was that Eddie and I are the same age, and when I first met with him about the script, I just talked about what I thought the movie could be. When I mentioned things that he would know like the Silver Shadow nightclub in New York, he couldn’t believe that he was talking to a director who knew those same reference points in terms of Buppie culture. He got very excited and we had trying to do something together for a while ever he saw ‘House Party.’ He was a big fan of the film. We spent a year pitching idea back and forth before the ‘Boomerang’ script was ready.
Did Eddie have a hand in casting?
RH: Casting the film was me and my brother (Warrington Hudlin). Eddie was aware of everything, but he let us do our thing. We were focused on making sure Eddie had a cast as good as he was. Throughout the times in Eddie’s movies, it’s just Eddie. He doesn’t have comparable comedic talent around him. Putting Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, and Chris Rock around him was really important to me. He and I very much agreed that Robin Givens was the right person for the part. The studio disagreed. They wanted another actress for the role and she was very good, buy we just thought that Robin was perfect and she was. With Halle, she was an unknown. She came in with film credits but not a meaningful awareness. When she walked in the room, she was undeniable, and not because of her beauty. We auditioned her and thought she was fabulous and when Eddie read her, he felt the same way. It was a done deal.
Coming in from previously directing ‘House Party,’ which was more comedic than romantic, was there a challenge doing the reverse with this film?
RH: No. It was where my head was. I was always a big fan of Woody Allen’s movies, with films like ‘Annie Hall’ and ‘Manhattan.’ I was a big fan of Preston Sturges. I was very excited to making a movie like that, and that was based in my own life experience.
While there have been several black romantic comedies to be released since ‘Boomerang,’ it’s still the highest grossing film among all of them. While it grossed $70 million in total domestically, after a $13M opening, it did another $60 plus overseas. These days most black films, let alone black romantic comedies, can’t get international distribution.
RH: Obviously, having Eddie Murphy as the star makes all the difference in the world. He was a global star at that point in his career. He used that star power to do something that was very unique, which was to do a black romantic comedy. This is something that I remember one of the executives at the studios told me to my face, saying, “Look. I don’t know how you make a romantic comedy with Eddie Murphy with that big nose and big lips.” I was like, “Wow!” That sort of straight up in your face racism is pretty extraordinary. I knew that they wanted us to start yelling and screaming and disqualify ourselves from this opportunity, but I knew that we were about to make a difference.
Who knew at the time that, besides Eddie, some of the cast would become leading players (Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock) in Hollywood?
RH: I remember talking to one of the producers at the time and saying, “Ten years from now, people won’t believe we had all these people in the same cast.” If you were there, you felt it. You felt that this was an explosive moment and that all these people were enormously talented and would go on to great careers. I’m so grateful that that’s what happened.
After this film did very well, it would be another four years before you did ‘The Great White Hype.’ Normally, when a black film does extremely well, the thinking is that we would see similar films from other studios or a sequel. That was not the case here.
RH: That was one of the tragic circumstances. We thought this movie would start a chain of films like this and it didn’t. There was this real hostile reaction in certain corners in Hollywood to the film. Eddie wasn’t doing what Eddie was supposed to do, which is to be a fast talking con man. It was him evolving his image. They kept saying that ‘Boomerang’ was a failure. It was not a failure. Did it make as much money as ‘Beverly Hills Cop?’ No, but it’s still a successful film by any measure. His next film was ‘Distinguished Gentleman,’ and to them, it was Eddie as they wanted him to be, a fast talking con man. That movie wasn’t nearly successful as ‘Boomerang.’ It’s not fondly remembered today. At the time, there was a negative pushback in mainstream Hollywood to the notion and prospect of what ‘Boomerang’ represented.
What did you want to do afterwards?
RH: For me, I sort of looked at George Lucas’ career. He did the teen comedy ‘American Graffiti’ and went on to do ‘Star Wars.’ I always wanted to do the same thing. I figured I’d do ‘House Party’ and then do my version of ‘Star Wars.’ I had a big sci-fi project, and several of them, that I kept trying to get off the ground and wasn’t successful at getting those off the ground. It hit this glass ceiling in Hollywood. I certainly don’t blame the system. I wasn’t sophisticated in knowing how to work the system of Hollywood. When I look at my peers, like Spike Lee and John Singleton, we all reached that same point where we had great success doing personal films in then all of sudden Hollywood said, “Now we want you to do our movies.” We still wanted to do what we wanted to do, but “If you want to work, you will do our movies.” We each hit this point of frustration that none of us could figure how to work around.
Twenty years later, things have changed. With the success of ‘Think Like A Man,’ another black romantic comedy, Hollywood has rewarded it with greenlighting a sequel. There’s talk of a sequel for ‘The Best Man’ as well. What are your thoughts on this?
RH: I applaud the success of every black film. When a black film hits, that rises all ships. When a black film flops, that hurts us all. We’re all chained together, whether we like it or not. All of us have to root for each other’s success. For me, when I hit that frustration, I realized that the only way we’re going to have meaningful success is to not to just focus on individual success, but building an institution. We are not to going to do it if we’re begging for a break. At the end of the day, people tell the stories that they want to tell. Yes, black films are profitable in business, but studios are making fewer black films than ever. When you go from 25 films a year to 12, it’s get a little tight. What’s going to get made, is not only commercial films, but commercial films that those executives have deep relationships with and those may or may not be our stories.
Moving forward, San Diego Comic Con is coming up fast (July 11) and you’re always a fixture there, participating in the Black Panel and as the former writer of the Black Panther comic book. There’s been talk that Marvel is thinking of making a Black Panther film? Being an authority figure on the subject, who do you envision in the role?
RH: Marvel owns the property and I knew that going in. People have been talking about doing a movie for many years, even before I got involved with the character. Clearly, I would love for it to be made. I’m very proud of my contribution to the Panther. I wrote the character for five years and I’ve sold more copies of the Black Panther than any other creator on the book. It’s up to Marvel as to who makes the film and what version they want to tell. In terms of actors, there are so many wonderful people that can be used, but it depends when they will make it. There’s no question that a movie like the Black Panther should have an all-star cast. From the main character, the royal family, the villains, it should be an epic. If it turns out that I can do something about the film, then I will, but until then, I’m working on a big kick ass film and hopefully that success will encourage people to make more movies about black heroes.
This festival will be different as not only are you doing the panel, but you will also be there as a producer for Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained.’ How did you get involved with the project?
RH: That came out of my relationship with Quentin. I’ve known him for several years and whenever we got together, we would always talk about movies. One time we were talking about the history of slavery on film and my frustrations with it. We debated on different movies and I talked about how I hated movies that aren’t entertaining but you’re supposed to watch them anyway because they are good for you. I don’t want to see those. I want to see films that are fun and entertaining and kick ass. For me, the only great film about slavery was ‘Spartacus,’ and if you’re not going to make a movie that entertaining about the American experience, I’m not interested. Little did I know, he was really listening closely to what I was saying and 15 years later, he hands me a script, saying, “You planted the seed, so now here’s the tree.” I’m like, “Wow!” We worked on the film and here we are.
How much is your involvement as a producer?
RH: It’s everything. I’ve been on it literally from the beginning. Quentin is a real auteur. He’s a brilliant filmmaker and I’m there to help out however he needs it. When we have creative conversations, or there are logistical problems that need to be solved, or any number of things that need to be addressed, as part of the production team, I’m there to help solve those problems so he can do his job and make his movie.
How was the reception at the recent NABJ conference in New Orleans?
RH: Oh my God, people loved it. Wherever we go, we’ve had two or three instances where we’ve shown seven to eight minutes of footage to folks; and everywhere we go, people just lose their minds. We’re putting together the plan for Hall H at Comic Con now and there will be an impressive array of folks there.
DJANGO UNCHAINED: Producer Reginald Hudlin Says its Not Another Slave Movie
The celebrated filmmaker and producer of one of the most anticipated films of the year tells us what's in store, and why Tarantino can't get enough of our stories
By Kelley L. Carter Entertainment Reporter
When the trailer was released earlier this month for Django: Unchained, Black folks didn’t quite know what to make of it. It’s clear it’s a Quentin Tarantino film—the blood shed, the fast-moving dialogue and the James Brown soundtrack are the Tarantino-esque trimmings we’ve all come to love. But it’s wrapped around—and set in—pre-Civil War America.
But a movie set during slavery? Turns out, this isn’t just another slave movie. The film is still shooting right now, but the hero—played by Academy Award winning actor and comedian Jamie Foxx— is a slave who gets his get back.
Foxx plays who we imagined we’d all be should we have lived through such a horrific time. And that’s exactly the kind of film Reginald Hudlin—Tarantino’s producer on this project—has been longing to see. It doesn’t release until Christmas (they’re still filming in New Orleans right now), but six months out, it’s got the kind of buzz that makes Hollywood studio execs ridiculously happy.
Hudlin who along with actress Kerry Washington previewed an extended seven-minute clip of the film at the National Association of Black Journalists convention on Thursday evening in New Orleans—talks with EBONY.com about the movie, slavery and why Tarantino loves telling our stories.
EBONY: What made you want to be apart of Django: Unchained?
Reginald Hudin: Quentin and I have been friends for, I don’t know, easily 15 years now, and maybe longer. Whenever we see each other we debate movies, because we’re both super passionate about the cinema. So we got into this whole debate about movies on this topic of slavery, and I was very frank about how I hated 90 percent of them. I thought they were cod liver oil movies that were -- and when I say cod liver oil, I mean movies that taste bad -- but you’re supposed to swallow it anyways, because it’s supposed to be good for you. I don’t understand how that works because if it’s not entertaining, if it’s not something you want to go see, why bother, because no one’s going to see it. And I just felt like these movies should be exciting, they should be action-packed and most of all, I felt like they should have plenty of kicking ass because at the end of the day, the world needs black people who fought back. I mean, the famous slave revolts like Nat Turner and Denmark Veesey and for every one that we know about, God knows how many that we don’t know about because people wanted to suppress that information.
EBONY: And let’s be honest: a lot of black folks, when we see movies like Django we think, ‘that’s who I would’ve been. I would’ve been the guy raising hell …’
RH: Exactly! And that’s what I want to see. I was just really blunt. For me, I said, ‘Look, there’s only one great movie about slavery and it was called Spartacus, and until there’s a movie like that about the American experience, I’m not that interested. He came back 13 years later and said, ‘hey man, I’ve finished my new script.’ And usually if you’ve got a new script or a rough cut of a new movie I go by and I see the rough cut in the editing room and I flip at the script early. I just thought it was another one of those. And he handed me a script and said, ‘you planted the seed; this is the tree.’ And then I read it, and then he was very excited, he wanted to know what I thought and I said I loved it. He said, ‘do you have notes?’ And then I gave him a ton of notes, and he was like, ‘those are good notes … basically I really want to do this together with you.’ And when someone is trying to do the right thing and asks for some help, the only responsible thing to do is roll up your sleeves and get to work.
EBONY: When I first saw the trailer, my first thoughts were, ‘Oh wow. Tarantino and Hudlin are ballsy. What they’re effectively doing is giving the Inglorious Basterds treatment to pre-civil war.’ That’s what you’re doing, right?
RH: Yes! It’s like when he first started talking about Inglorious Basterds to me, years before the movie got made, Quentin said, ‘World War II was the war about racism, right?’ Because the Nazis said, ‘we’re the master race.’ So, you know, these are the things that he cares about and he thinks about … these are the things that he knows and are passionate about, and certainly the kind of movies that I always wanted to make, being a person who grew up on Blaxploitation, which was all about black folk kicking ass and taking names. I’m like, Yes, I’m down with that program. Let’s do that.
EBONY: All we have to go on right now is the trailer that’s out. And in the opening scene of it, we see the tree welts on black backs, but then it kicks into gear and kind of gives us what this film is about. Talk to me about selling this film to the black community. Is there any trepidation that you guys have? Because even though it seems to be a spaghetti Western, it’s still set in an ugly time period for us …
RH: I mean, look, the fact is whenever something historical happens with black folks, we get a little nervous, because the past has not been good to us. And so yeah, we’re good where we’re now, we’re doing better and better every year. I’ve always known those classic Western stories, those stories of good versus evil and standing up and fighting for your rights and fighting civilization, those really apply to us. Those really are perfect vehicles for our struggle. And at the end of the day in a Western, you know what you’re going to get, which is that the righteous will vanquish the evil and … I feel like as long as we deliver that to the audience, we’ll be alright. Because that’s what you want to see.
EBONY: There have been other great films set during that time period that failed at the box office because people – black and white -- just don’t want to be reminded. What gives you the confidence that this one will be the one to break past it?
RH: I always start very simple with an audience of one. What do I want to see? And if I feel passionate about it, I feel that other people will be passionate about it, and that’s been pretty consistent for me. This is a movie where when I read the script, I wanted to see it. And just the response that I’ve been getting from the trailer is that a whole lot of people feel the same way.
EBONY: What’s the chatter like on set when you guys are filming this? In spite of the fun that is going to be had in an action film like this, there still are some dark moments -- like that opening scene from the trailer -- and you have to film those images.
RH: It’s the full range. On the one hand, it’s great when you have people like Samuel Jackson, Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx who are veterans in this business working together, because they enjoy each other. They don’t always get to work together. And then you have their white counterparts, you know, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, so you actually just have some of the best actors in Hollywood working together, regardless of race. And that doesn’t happen enough. And I think the actors really revel in that. And then you have all those wonderful, seasoned actors working with young actors and talk with them and giving them advice. Or the young actors, sometimes they won’t even be shooting on a day, but they’ll come to set just to watch the other actors work. I’ll turn around sometimes and I’ll see four young actors watching Sam Jackson like he was doing a stage play and it’s just like, ‘We just wanna watch and learn.’
EBONY: Right. He’s a fun guy too.
RH: Exactly! And that’s a mind-blowing, wonderful thing. And in terms of the content, there are really some days where people are like, ‘wow, we just really brought home what this movie was about, particularly when we’re shooting on an actual slave plantation.’ But then when we shoot the payback scenes people are stunned. They’re like, ‘Yeah, kill him! Get him!’ White people, they’re like, ‘Come on!’ And that’s the thing that’s so interesting, because, you know, we have not just a multi-ethnic cast, but a multi-ethnic crew, you know, white people and black people and Asian people and a lot of Native Americans. It was actually the biggest Native American crew of people I’ve ever worked on and just to have all those perspectives and all those spirits coming together it makes it a really fantastic experience.
EBONY: As much as we hate boxes, we kind of live in a world where we need boxes and categories. How are you going to classify this? Is it a black movie or is it something different?
RH: It’s a Quentin Tarantino movie.
EBONY: Touche. And every inch of it looks to be so.
RH: Right. And that’s the thing, when I say that people go, ‘Oh, I know what that is!’ What is Jackie Brown? Is that a black movie? Is that a white movie? What is that?
EBONY: You’re right. It’s hard to define. Which is a good thing.
RH: Yeah. I mean, there’s no category other than the category that it is.
EBONY: Tarantino has been telling our stories for years; he includes black people. Jackie Brown and even Pulp Fiction – I challenge you to find a black person who can’t quote Sam Jackson in that movie. Tell us something about Tarantino that maybe isn’t so obvious to us. Why do you think it’s so important that he includes us in his films?
RH: You know that white family who, when the neighborhood turns black, the white family can’t afford to move out? He was that family. He grew up around black people; he grew up immersed in black culture as well as white culture, and that was just part of his life. So when Quentin and I talk about movies, we saw the same movies. We both talked about our experiences watching Roots when we were a kid. You know the end of Roots where the white slave master’s tied to the post and the black man has the whip and then he goes, ‘Oh, I can’t beat you. That would lower me to your level’ …? I was a kid in East St. Louis, watching that screaming at the TV, ‘Oh, hell no!!!’ I have never seen John Wayne go, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that.’ John Wayne handles his business at the end of every movie. But somehow when the black man is at the end of the movie, the rules are different. And the fact is Quentin was in South Bay, California, screaming the same thing, having the same reaction! So for us, we have a black man beat a white slave master with his own whip, which, as far as I know, has never happened in the history of cinema. It’s like, Wow, we’re doing our jobs.
EBONY: Once this film is complete – are we supposed to have learned something? Or are we just supposed to walk away having seen some fun stuff happen on film?
RH: With House Party, when I originally made that movie I wanted to make a safe sex movie, but I wanted to hide the message so deeply within the entertainment that you would never perceive it as that. In my whole career I’ve been successful at entertaining people so thoroughly that they don’t feel a medicine-y aftertaste. Because the truth is every generation needs to hear the story of America’s original sin and that’s what slavery is. And I mean everyone, black and white. Our Jewish brothers and sisters do a great job telling the story of the Holocaust over and over again and that’s a painful story, but they know, for themselves and for all of humanity, we have to remind ourselves what we’re capable of as a people, and we have to tell this story and we have to tell it over and over. We have to find new ways and new perspectives on that story so that we never forget. Because if you don’t remember your past, you’re doomed to repeat it.
FLICK ATTACK: So, Black Panther. Were you a comic book geek in childhood?
HUDLIN: Uh, yes, I was.
FLICK ATTACK: And even today?
HUDLIN: And even.
FLICK ATTACK: It’s okay to admit it.
HUDLIN: Yeah, I mean, it’s so funny … what I’m about to say is a “nerd conversation,” but there’s debates over geek vs. nerd, right? I always go, “I’m a nerd, not a geek, because nerds actually have sex.” So, you know, that’s how I separate myself.
FLICK ATTACK: Was Black Panther a favorite of yours growing up?
HUDLIN: I loved all comics — Marvel, DC, Gold Key — but I loved Captain America and I loved Black Panther, because I felt like they were essentially the same character. They were both these noble symbols of their nation, and I just love that idea.
FLICK ATTACK: And you have Captain America in this show, as well.
HUDLIN: Oh, absolutely. In fact, we actually took that one scene and expanded it out into a four-issue miniseries with Black Panther and Cap’s first team-up, where they fought Red Skull and the whole gang, because I just love those characters so much.
FLICK ATTACK: Having written for film and comics and now animation, how hard was it to go from one medium to another? I presume they each have their own challenges.
HUDLIN: Yeah, they all do. Switching from medium to medium, you learn so much about each one and the other. When you make a movie, you’re trying to keep someone entertained for 90 minutes. When you do a TV show, you’re trying to keep them for an hour or half of it, but really what you’re trying to do is keep it so exciting that when you get to a commercial break, you don’t turn the channel. And when you do a comic book, you’re trying to get them keep turning the page. When you get to that last panel, do you want to see what happens next? All of them is all about keeping the viewer engaged through short or long periods of time.
FLICK ATTACK: Do you have a favorite among those?
HUDLIN: No. For me, you find a story you’re excited about and find what’s the best medium for that story.
FLICK ATTACK: As a kid, did you notice that nearly all the African-American superheroes — few as they were — had to have “Black” in their names, like Black Panther, Black Lightning, Black Vulcan?
HUDLIN: For me, I was a huge Black Panther fan; there was nothing “token” about him. I just thought he was a character with a tremendous amount of integrity and stood on his own. I was not so much into Black Lightning, although certainly, perfectly fine idea. Black Vulcan the cartoon character was always sad to me, because he didn’t have any pants on. And also, the name — I mean, at least Black Lightning, that is sort of a phrase. Black Panther, there is an animal called the black panther. Black Lightning is a phrase. Black Vulcan is idiotic. It’s like Black Goliath: inappropriate. I mean, “Really, dude, Black Goliath? He can’t just be Goliath?” That’s when it all goes wrong.
FLICK ATTACK: I was surprised at how much humor there was in these episodes of Black Panther. It made me think it would work well as a feature film. Are there any discussion to do that in live action?
HUDLIN: Yes, I think it would be a great movie. There have been talks of a Black Panther movie for 15-plus years. I remember after my first film, House Party, I did a deal at Sony Pictures, who at the time had the rights to Black Panther. I remember reading some of the scripts, and they were horrible! They had Black Panther as a guy living in the projects of America. He had no idea about his African heritage. I just said, “Look, whether I’m involved in this movie or not, you can’t do this! This is evil!” Which is probably not the most politically correct way to express your opinion, but I’m not one to bite my tongue. So, yes, lately there’s been talks. That’s really Marvel’s decision and they play their cards close to vest. I wrote this miniseries and made this DVD so that whether there’s ever a Black Panther movie and whether I’m involved in it or not, people can look at that and go, “Well, that’s what Black Panther is! That’s who he should be!” and I’m happy to have succeeded in that.
FLICK ATTACK: You brought up House Party. Isn’t it about time for a House Party reboot?
HUDLIN: I’ve been getting that a lot. Usually, I get people asking for a Boomerang sequel, but yes, the House Party conversation has been popping up a lot. Fortunately, I do actually have an idea, so I guess this month, I need to actually write that idea down.
FLICK ATTACK: You know, after four of those movies, Kid and Play — I still don’t know who’s who.
HUDLIN: Well, Kid had the hair.
FLICK ATTACK: And since you brought up Boomerang, how does it feel to know that there’s an entire generation of men who can’t look at a woman’s foot without vomiting?
HUDLIN: They’re looking at the wrong toes! Well, there’s also a generation of women who get pedicures all the time because of Boomerang. I’ve been complimented on both sides.
FLICK ATTACK: You’ve spurred the economy when it comes to mani-pedis.
FLICK ATTACK: Serving Sara: Were you a fan when you cast Bruce Campbell or was it just a case of the first actor you saw who fit into the hat?
HUDLIN: I pleaded for Bruce Campbell. I was like, “You know, man, I know it’s not your kind of movie. I just want to hang out with you.” The irony is I found the DP for House Party from watching the trailer of Evil Dead II in Times Square. I just said, “Whoever shot that is the guy I want to work with.”
FLICK ATTACK:The Ladies Man. First of all, I think Tim Meadows is a funny guy. But, if you assume that The Blues Brothers is at the top and It’s Pat is at the bottom, where would you rate The Ladies Man among the SNL movies?
HUDLIN: Wow. That’s a tough, tough thing, because … do you put Blues Brothers at the top or do you put Wayne’s World at the top?
FLICK ATTACK: I’m going with Blues Brothers, because Wayne’s World doesn’t quite hold up as well. Some of its jokes are so 1992.
HUDLIN: See, I haven’t seen either in a million years, so I’m just going to keep them safe in my shuttered memory. I loved Blues Brothers when I was a kid, I loved Wayne’s World as a young man. Where does The Ladies Man fit in that pantheon? You know, I never saw It’s Pat, so I don’t know if we need to be sitting next to It’s Pat or defending the honor of It’s Pat. I can’t speak to that. It’s weird: The Ladies Man is not as funny as it should be, even though Tim Meadows is hilarious. There’s a lot of funny, funny scenes in it. The greatest gift of working on the movie was working with Will Ferrell. Magnificent. Actually, I did the movie because it has a musical number in it.
FLICK ATTACK: Oh, it wasn’t Julianne Moore as a clown?
HUDLIN: That came later. Nice! That was just bonuses after I got onboard. You know, it’s not what it should be, but there are 14-year-olds who worship me because I made Ladies Man, so who’s to say?
FLICK ATTACK: More recently, I’ve seen your name in front of a lot of TV shows I watch. So I want to know which show you directed had more awkward pauses, Modern Family or The Office?
HUDLIN: Oh, wow, good one. Good, good question. Both shows are faster-paced than you’d think, but I guess The Office wins for sheer number of awkward pauses. By season six when I got onboard, they had mastered the uncomfortable double-take. The show is great because the characters feel so much shame.
FLICK ATTACK: Who would you rather work with again: Jamie Foxx or Sofia Vergara’s breasts?
HUDLIN: C’mon now. I worked with Sofia, not her breasts, so technically speaking, I wouldn’t be working with them again. But if I were to work with them, I wouldn’t ever stop.
FLICK ATTACK: I’ve got one last question for you.
FLICK ATTACK: I want you to know you made my life miserable. It was the summer of 1994. That’s when Bebe’s Kids came out on VHS. I was working at Blockbuster Video at the time, and our store had three copies, and there were always, always rented. I fielded calls all day long, people came in wanting it, and when I told them we were all out, customers every day took their anger out at me. And when they couldn’t rent it, they’d want to buy it and ask how much it was, and I’d say, “$99.95,” because that’s how much VHS tapes cost back then, and they’d get even angrier at me! So my question is, will you apologize?
HUDLIN: I think your manager should apologize. What kind of dick gets that kind of demand and doesn’t get more copies?
FLICK ATTACK: I’ll tell you what kind: corporations!
HUDLIN: Right. This corporation said, “This thing really isn’t that popular, and despite enormous evidence to the contrary, we’re going to ignore that.” That’s the story of that whole movie. It was frustrating, because Cool World came out the month before, and that didn’t work. And so Paramount said, “We’re out of this animation thing,” and I was like, “Wait wait wait! We had a movie! We had a movie!” It performs incredibly well on DVD and cable. I was at BET and they were like, “Oh, my God, we just can’t show Bebe’s Kids enough.” I still tell Paramount about it and they don’t get it. Why can’t the signal connect to the brain? There’s some kind of disconnect.
FLICK ATTACK: Well, they didn’t work at Blockbuster that summer, that’s why.
HUDLIN: This is the problem. They need more guys like you in the corporate offices.
FLICK ATTACK: They don’t ask me.
HUDLIN: Well, I’m going to quote you from now on: “Mr. Rob —”
As busy as he is directing, writing and ruling the world Reginald Hudlin Writer, Director, businessman and all around comic book fan sat down with world of black heroes for a heart to heart about all things Black Panther. The Black Panther animated series, is there a black Panther movie? Flags of our fathers and working with marvel comics we ask it all!!!
Tell our readers a bit about yourself.
Well, they can go to www.hudlinentertainment.com and find out tons about me! I’ve got my bio and a reel of my work there, and I post regular updates about my life and career and participate quite a bit on the forum pages. You can even buy the comics you read about in this article on the site. I’ve also started www.reggiesworld.com, a retail section on my site where you can buy comics, posters, statutes and DVDs because I’m tired of turning people onto comics and then having to explain where to find a comic book shop in their area.
Growing up who was your favorite superhero and why?
I never had a favorite character. I’d read everything from Marvel to DC to Gold Key to Harvey and enjoy them all. But I had a special appreciation for black characters like Black Panther and Luke Cage, and would get upset if I felt they weren’t being written appropriately. I didn’t like it if Black Panther didn’t get enough shine in the Avengers. I didn’t even like that Luke eventually had to share his book.
What was the experience like working with Marvel Comics?
It was fantastic. Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso understood where I wanted to go with the character and were incredibly supportive in every way. They got me great artists, marketing support and were understanding of my brutal work schedule. They were also supportive of the Black Panther animated series, which was a very unusual project.
Who is the Black panther?
To me Priest was the writer who restored Black Panther to the intentions implied in his debut appearances by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
When I relaunched the book, I took so much inspiration from what he wrote. My take has been described as a more Black Nationalist approach, which I think is fair. I think that Black Panther is no different than Captain America. Cap is strong, good man who represents the best of American values. The Panther is the same thing for Africa.
What do you believe were the highlights of your run on Black Panther?
I think the first six issues (collected in WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER?) were very strong. So many people don’t know who the Black Panther is, so having a book that doesn’t rely on previous knowledge of the character or the Marvel Universe is very useful. It also delivers the tone that fans of that character want – a strong, intelligent, regal, kick ass character from an advanced, strategically sophisticated, and tough as nails country.
The marriage of Storm and the Black Panther was gigantic because it was the first time in comic book history two black heroes of any note were married.
To say they are a power couple is an understatement.
I also like the storyline collected in the BAD MUTHA book because it is the only team up of some of the biggest black super heroes – the Black Panther, Luke Cage, Blade and fan favorites like Brother Voodoo and Monica Rambeau.
The Civil War issue was probably my favorite dialogue. The conversation between Namor, T’Challa and Ororo was a pleasure to write.
Tell us about the relationship between Storm and T’challa? Why do you think they were meant to be together?
It’s hilarious to me when haters say the marriage between a Wakandan King superhero and a Kenyan Princess superhero is “forced”. When the people who complain endlessly about “decompressed storytelling” complain that the wedding was “rushed” even though it was set up for months with two different storylines published. They should just admit they want Storm with Wolverine and they don’t care about Black Panther one way or the other. Although if you’re really into Storm, why would you want him to have Jean Grey’s leftovers? T’Challa and Ororo are so perfectly matched it feels like they were created for each other.
Since you had T’challa and Storm marry… perhaps in the future would you have had her get pregnant and have kids?
I wrote the only Black Panther Annual EVER and that story BLACK TO THE FUTURE is about T’Challa and Storm’s five children. Some of them had powers, some didn’t. One day I would like to go into more detail about who they are and what they become…do a DUNE-style generational epic.
You and Mayberry worked together briefly before you left black panther, what are the chance of you two teaming up again?
No plans, but I’d be open to it. Mayberry is a gracious, classy dude who loves the character.
I’ve spoken to quite a few celebs this year and I must say your easily one of the most humble and humane. How do you find time for fans with your hectic schedule?
Thank you. I use facebook as a work avoidance tool.
Why was Azzari in Flags of our fathers as opposed to T’chaka?
Because of the “sliding timelines” of Marvel, T’Chaka used to be the Panther that Cap met in World War Two. But now it’s Azzuri, who is a cool character I written about in the Civil War issues of Cap as well as FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS.
During your run T’chaka despite being T’challa’s dad was never really given much of a spotlight, Were there ever plans to “flesh out” T’chaka?
Yes, I have a sequel of sorts to FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS about T’Chaka, who appears in FLAGS as a kid. It’s pretty kick ass period story that connects him to a lot of Marvel characters and real historical characters. I just haven’t had time to develop the proposal. I’ve always been fascinated by S’yan the swift…..you left him in the background a lot can we ever hope for a story where his time as Panther will see the light of day?
Family is so important to royalty so I added a lot of family members for the Panther. I gave T’Chaka a brother, S’yan, who ran things after his brother’s death until T’Challa was old enough to take the reins. He’s a key guy because he keeps things running while T’Challa is gallivanting around the globe fighting Dr. Doom or spying on the Avengers. I always thought his death would be a major event in the world of Wakanda because you need that trusted guy with his eye on things back home.
Are their any plans to return to comics? Or Black Panther in the future?
I’m working on several comic book projects right now. One is a major graphic novel that I’m almost done writing. There are two more projects in the works that are creator-owned properties that are also pretty hot. I do have some more Black Panther ideas but Axel Alonso, who the editor during my run on the book, is no longer working on the character, so I would have to see if the new editor is interested in the type of stories I want to tell.
What can you tell us about the Black Panther DVD set (which me and everyone have been clamoring for since forever) which was recently announced?
It’s the whole series, uncut, and it’s generated some of the best buzz of anything I’ve done. Some people think it’s better than the original books it’s based on, and a lot of people watch it and can’t believe something this politically provocative ever got made. Lot of compliments about the look of the show too.
I’m taking pre-orders for the Black Panther DVD at www.reggiesworld.com if folks want their copies autographed.
How did the Black Panther become an animated series under your watch?
When I did my deal with BET, I had already started writing the series for Marvel. I specifically put a carve out in my deal so I could continue writing. There was no way I would going to become an executive with no direct creative outlet. So I wrote in on redeye flights, in hotel rooms, early in the morning before my kids woke up.
One day at the office a couple of the staff members suggest we should do it as an animated series. I said that would be cool but didn’t pursue it. But Denys Cowan, my head of animated did. He produced a five minute short that literally blew everyone away. I didn’t even know about it till he showed me. I took it to Marvel and everyone there flipped. They gave me the okay to pursue it, so I took it to Debra Lee the Chairman of BET, and she was very happy to say yes. She was hoping BET would get a Panther series.
By the time the show went into production, I had left the network, so I stepped in, writing the show, casting the voices, and just being all over the thing. The animation house titmouse was great considering how hands on I was.
Any chance of us seeing a season 2 for the Black Panther animated series?
If people really support this DVD, yes.
How did Djimon Honsou become the voice of the Black Panther? (he’s perfect)
Casting an African actor seemed like a good idea to me, and since there was Academy Award-nominated African actor who looks like a superhero and was interested in the role, it was a no-brainer.
Djimon took it very seriously and worked really hard. He’s a really nice guy and he’s married to my St. Louis homie Kimora, who I’ve known for years.
I love the music used in the Black Panther animated series will those tunes ever be made available to fans, Itunes or perhaps the DVD set?
I can’t say enough about the fantastic score by Stephen James Taylor. He is a brilliant composer who generated an amazing amount of music in a brutally short window of time. I come into a show with a lot of ideas about music, usually weird ones, and the composer has to make sense of it all. He got where my head was and took it further. I loved working with him.
What secrets can you tell us about the Black Panther Movie?
None. I don’t know any.
Who would you cast as the titular Black Panther in a Black Panther Movie?
I’m not at liberty to say.
What’s next for Reginald Hudlin arguably one of the biggest and brightest minds of the 20th century?
Man, again with the praise. I’m blushing!
I’m working some movie projects, some TV projects, a couple of books and maybe a live show.
What would be your dream project (movie or comic book)?
I’m working on original material now that will hopefully be both.
Tell us something comic related that you’ve never told anyone before.
I’ve never seen STEEL or CATWOMAN. I’m a black filmmaker who writes comics, which has got to be the ultimate in target demo. That’s how unappealing those movies were to me.
Thanks for your time Reggie it was a pleasure and good luck on all your future endeavors.
Reginald Hudlin is a man who has almost done it all. He has written and directed his own movies, run a major media outlet with BET, and written such characters as the Black Panther for Marvel Comics. The Dollar Bin was given the chance to submit a few questions to the man himself so Joel, Terence, and the rest of the Dollar Bin crew put our heads together and came up with the 10 best and toughest questions we could.
DB:What was your first exposure to comics?
Hudlin:My oldest brother was a very serious collector. He put together a very broad Silver Age collection Marvel, DC, Gold Key and other publishers. I got the bug from him.
DB:BET has gotten criticism over the years for promoting certain possibly negative stereotypes. In your opinion where is the line between an accurate representation of certain segments of African-American culture and helping to perpetuate negative stereotypes and how can that line be defined?
Hudlin:It’s not my job to defend BET anymore, but to answer your question broadly, at this point there is too much disagreement within our community by gender, class and education to come to any kind of consensus as to what is “appropriate” or even “real” in black representation.
DB:Did you read Christopher’s Priest’s run on Black Panther, did it influence your run and if so, how?
Hudlin:I loved it. For the first time since the characters creation by Lee and Kirby, I felt he was a total badass. The level of invention, from the Dora Milaje to the reason why he joined the Avengers, was just brilliant.
DB:It seems like a fairly large leap to go from running BET to writing a monthly comic. How were you approached and were you given a choice of projects? Hudlin:How is that a large leap? In any case, that’s not how it happened. I was introduced to Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso at Marvel and we had a broad conversation about black characters in comics, which led to me being offered a Black Panther mini-series. When that was turned in, they asked if I would be interested in turning it into an ongoing series. I was also offered several of their A list characters, I agreed to write one of the Spider Man books.
At the same time, I got the call offering me the Presidency of BET. So I put it in my contract that I could keep writing the book. But I knew I couldn’t do both…writing two comic book series at all while doing such a demanding job was impossible…but I had to keep writing Panther.
DB: A lot of the individuals who have come from other mediums to write comics (i.e. Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer) say that the pay was so low that they did it for the love of the medium. What was the appeal for you to try writing comics yourself?
Hudlin:Writing for Marvel means you get to play with the toys, the icons that still mean a lot to you. You pay for the privilege, because you’re working at a reduced rate than what you would paid in other mediums, but the satisfaction is great.
DB:What would your dream comic project be in terms of character, creative team, and possibly the storyline (if you can drop us a hint)?
Hudlin:I’m more focused on original characters. I’m developing a couple of ideas with other artists I’ve worked with before, and also doing some collaborations with other writers.
DB:Why do you think it is that female writers are perceived as only being able to write female characters and black writers being able to only write black characters and how can those stereotypes be overcome within the industry?
Hudlin:I don’t think that is true. Most black writers I know have written white characters. I don’t perceive women as being ghettoized either. There just aren’t a lot of women writers or writers of color working in comics, and that’s a shame. Because they would probably tell stories that would expand the readership of comics, which absurdly low considering how popular the characters are in other mediums.
DB:You wrote the screenplay for House Party and directed it. Did your experience as a writer and director of movies help or hinder you in transitioning into writing comics and in what ways was it either helpful or hurtful?
Hudlin:Experience helps you appreciate the unique strengths of each medium.
DB:You have written and directed successful movies, written well-received comics, run a major entertainment force in BET, what do you see your next challenge as being?
Hudlin:Make movies, write comics and run a major media company – all at the same time!
DB:What can comic companies do to help expand their audience in the face of shrinking readership numbers?
Hudlin:Try something different. The marketing, distribution and content of comics have come a long way, but there are too many obvious fixes left to do. Digital distribution could make a huge difference in terms of reaching audiences who have no idea where a comic book store is. With a wider potential reading audience, the subject matter of comics could widen out a lot more. And digital means it’s easier to do targeted marketing. It just takes vision and courage.
Your run on Deathlok seemed to be full of allusions to the black experience. The lead character's trapped in a cyborg construct and has his body stolen from him. His fear and shame at how his family would see his new form keeps him from them. He's literally separated from his own humanity. And the dialogues between the cyborg's computer AI and Michael Collins riffs on the twoness that W.E.B. DuBois spoke about. How much of this was explicitly in your and Greg Wright's pitch and how much did you slip under the radar?
None of it was in the pitch, but all of it was intentional. Invisible Man was, and still is, my favorite novel. I'd just read The Souls of Black Folk and was explicitly thinking about Skip Gates' The Signifying Monkey. Godel, Esher, Bach and Derrick Bell's dialogues about race and law sort of crashed in my head. Deathlok was a way of sharing some of my thoughts about all of this.
Foremost, though, Deathlok was supposed to be a modern-day take on Marvel's The Thing (a man alienated by his surface appearance), as well as my own commentary on the "grim and gritty" trend in comic book heroes. Contrary to the fashion at the time, I wanted to do a superhero who was more moral than I, not less.
You've talked about how the character of Buck Wild came about as a commentary on the complicated love/hate relationship you had with Luke Cage. Do you still feel the need to address that relationship today? Did doing those issues with Buck help work that stuff out?
I'd worked those issues out even before I started Milestone. I just wanted to share those ideas with the comic book readership in an entertaining matter. Interestingly, those stories are about to be reprinted this summer as Icon: Mothership Connection. The excesses of Blaxploitation comics characters like Cage is the past, though. I'm much more interested in dealing with the stuff that's going on now: more green characters with their own monthlies than black characters, a criminal lack of people of color in writing and editorial positions on mainstream books, et cetera... The last time I tried to write about that stuff in a mainstream book, my story was bounced (by the same people who asked me to write about it, mind you), and my editors wanted to replace it with clichés from twenty years ago, clichés that not coincidentally shielded mainstream readers and comicbook creators from any responsibility for the current state of affairs. I passed on that. I'll write about those issues again when I have more control over the content.
You can see hints of Song of Solomon in Icon and maybe a little bit of The Autobiography of Malcolm X in Hardware (where Curtis starts off operating from a vengeful drive but eventually matures to a justice-for-all mindset)? Is there any literature or a writer who's influencing you now? Like, where you read something and think, I wonder if there's something I can play with there?
I'm in a very strange reading phase right now. I'm obsessed with paperback original crime novels from the '50s through the '70s or so. It's people writing very quickly, for money, with very little filter on their world view, so as long as their entertaining, they can talk about whatever they like. Comics used to be like that, I guess I'm just nostalgic.
I'm currently reading a lot of Ed Lacy, whose 1957 Toussaint Moore novel, Room To Swing, is still one of the best, most human portrayals of a black character ever in detective fiction. I imagine him hanging out on the porch with Easy Rollins, and talking about life. Let's see, Dennis Lehane's The Given Day really knocked me out. I also just discovered Percival Everett, how the hell did I not know about this guy? I'm reading a lot of Steven Pinker, surely that stuff will come out somewhere, sometime.
Really though, my major writing influences right now are from television. The Wire is a work of art on par with the best in any field of human endeavor. I've not tried anything on that scale in comics, and I don't know if I'm up to the challenge, but I'd sure like to try.
On another level, I loved Sports Night and Arrested Development. I should mention something on the air now, shouldn't I? I love House and the main character reminds me of my take on Hardware -my family has accused me of being like very much like both characters. I can't decide if that's a compliment. Probably not.
Expo Founder Jamal Turner flew to Los Angeles to interview Reginald Hudlin.
The two haven’t spoken since Jamal failed to make the cut for the Boomerang soundtrack.
How would you describe growing up in Centreville, Illinois?
RH: The nearest hospital to the house my father built for us was in Centreville, so that’s where I was born. But my childhood was in East St. Louis. East St. Louis is a small town, but Centreville can fairly be called a village. In high school someone from Centreville asked me if I lived in a middle class neighborhood. I asked what he meant by that. He then asked if my street had sidewalks. So to him, I was ballin’ with sidewalks and all.
How did your hometown shape your appreciation of music? What would be your dream cast for a musical?
RH: First of all, we had great radio stations. George Clinton loved one of our local DJs so much he dubbed him “Dr. Jockenstein”. I grew up hearing blues, jazz, soul music and rock and roll on the regular.
My dream cast for a musical would include Sun Ra, Bootsy Collins, the Wu Tang Clan, Beyoncé, and Drake.
Pre-Sopranos, you and your brother Warrington Hudlin created the Twilight Zone -inspired Cosmic Slop for HBO. How involved was the network with what you were creating? Did you have total freedom? How did you go about selecting talent i.e. actors, directors, writers, etc. to work on the show?
RH: HBO is a very creative-friendly network. Because they don’t have advertisers, they like noisy, bold shows. If there was any trepidation, it was from Black employees at HBO, who were nervous about the “Space Traders” episode, in which aliens offer the United States renewable energy, mineral wealth and a clean environment in return for all their Black people. The Black HBO employees were concerned the story would give White people ideas…as if we could come up with something that we had not already been subjected to in the past four hundred years.
The show came about after I read Derrick Bell’s book Faces at The Bottom of The Well. I thought there were a lot of short stories like this floating around and maybe doing a modern day Twilight Zone about cutting-edge political issues would be cool. I wanted to do one, my brother wanted to do one, and I just called my friends…novelist Trey Ellis and comic book maestro Kyle Baker…to help out. I picked Kevin Sullivan to direct one because he seemed like a pro, and he was.
Later Quentin Tarantino got in my ass because he thought Space Traders should have been a movie, not a TV show segment.
Did you get to say all that you wanted to about the Black Panther in your run on the Marvel comic? Is there a DC Comics character that you would like to sink your teeth into?
RH: All I wanted to say? Never! But given that I originally signed up for a six issue mini-series, I got to say a lot. I married Black Panther and Storm, which was a Really Big Deal. There had never been a high-profile love story with Black characters in comics before. Ever. Isn’t that weird?
I wanted to have Panther, Luke Cage and Blade do a team up, but most importantly, have the kind of conversations I thought Black characters would have with each other, but had never been seen before. I did that too. I’m good with what I achieved.
As for DC, I love the Milestone characters, but it’s really tough doing books in continuity these days at either Marvel or DC. Too much coordination with broader editorial mandates that can lead to some great stories, but it’s tough to devote that much time if it’s not your main gig. I’m concentrating on graphic novels right now, and will eventually do some original characters.
The latest graphic novel project you’ve written for Marvel Comics is “Flags of Our Fathers” which hits stores in April. In the story, you feature the first meeting of comic book icons Captain America and the Black Panther during World War Two. What was the genesis of the idea?
RH: Denys and I said it’s a crime that we’ve never done a comic together, so the idea of doing a Black Panther/Cap book popped up. We talked about documenting their relationship through the years, and it ended up focusing on their first meeting, and really fleshing out that story.
Was your approach to historical accuracy closer to HBO’s Band of Brothers or Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds?
RH: Denys is doing mad research for the art, which looks incredible. But my research was basically a lifetime of reading Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. Quentin actually invited me to see a rough cut of Inglorious Basterds shortly after I started the project and it was a real inspiration to me.
Were there strict guidelines from Marvel that you had to follow for writing these two characters?
RH: Well, there was definite attention paid to the depiction of Captain America with the movie coming up, but it wasn’t a problem. I am a big Captain America fan. He represents the best of the American Spirit, and that’s a big part of the storyline. Until I went to President Obama’s inauguration, the only time I felt patriotic was reading those old Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Captain America stories.
The project is drawn by acclaimed illustrator Denys Cowan, who is also a friend of yours. How was it working together for the first time on a graphic novel project? Did he involve you in the storytelling process by showing you layouts and designs, or did you only see the artwork after it was completed?
RH: It was great working with Denys because he would send me rough layouts, and I got to put my two cents in. Conversely, I would run plot stuff by him so he could weigh in on that as well. It’s a real partnership. This project is the first of several books we’re doing together.
What’s next for Reginald Hudlin?
RH: Well, after taking time off, I thought about what I really wanted to do. Movies? TV? Comics? Another executive gig? Then I realized I didn’t have to choose. So quietly, methodically, I’m doing it all.
The African American martial arts star of the 1970s gets a DVD set devoted to his impressive skills.
By Steve Ryfle January 10, 2010
Before Jackie Chan and Jet Li, before Chuck Norris, Jean Claude van Damme and Steven Seagal, Jim Kelly earned his place in the pantheon of martial arts heroes fighting alongside Bruce Lee in 1973's "Enter the Dragon." With his lightning-quick fists and feet, cocksure attitude and repertoire of quotable one-liners, the Afro-sporting, chisel-chested Kelly was as cool and flashy as Lee was fast and lethal.
Nearly four decades on, Kelly has become a certified cult film legend -- the 2009 blaxploitation spoof "Black Dynamite" contained more than one homage to his movies -- though his Hollywood career was all too brief.
This week, Warner Home Video will release its Urban Action Collection, featuring three of Kelly's classic films on DVD for the first time: 1974's "Black Belt Jones" and "Three the Hard Way" and 1976's "Hot Potato." A fourth entry in the set, 1974's "Black Samson," stars Rockne Tarkington, the actor who was originally set to play Kelly's groundbreaking role in "Enter the Dragon."
The collection and a new wave of public appearances are going a long way toward helping Kelly reclaim his legacy as Hollywood's first African American fighting film icon.
"I broke down the color barrier -- I was the first black martial artist to become a movie star," said Kelly, 63, the owner and director of a tennis club in the San Diego area. "It's amazing to see how many people still remember that, because I haven't really done much, in terms of movies, in a long time."
Reggie Hudlin wears a lot of hats and I don’t think it’s fair to pin just one on him, so check out his resume.. A while ago, we did a FilmClash! that involved Boomerang here on Ye Old Screening Room, a film Hudlin directed. I reached out to him via email and asked if he’d like to talk about the experience and a few other things.