NAACP Image Awards
On February 1st, I produced the NAACP Image Awards. Moment of clarification: in television, the highest title is executive producer, which I was on this show along with Brad Lachman. On movies, the main “producer” title is producer, which I am on Django along with Stacey Sher and Pilar Savone. Most civilians not in the entertainment business mix them up, or give me jobs on projects that I didn’t do, like direct the Image Awards (Tony McCuin did that) or write and direct Django (Quentin Tarantino did that).
Back to the Image Awards. I knew it was going to be a great show when the NAACP told them they were giving Harry Belafonte the Springarn Medal, their highest honor. Mr. Belafonte is a person I try to honor whenever I can. He received BET’s top honor when I was there, and I was glad to do it again.
Seeing living legends Sidney Poiter and Harry Belafonte onstage together blew everyone’s mind. This was the most popular moment in the show. No surprise there. By the way, when I asked Mr. Belafonte if he minded if Wyclef performed in his honor since he had such deep respect for him, he loved the idea, loved Wyclef and suggested that Common join him. That’s how hip the 85 year old Mr. Belafonte is.
Jamie Foxx won the Entertainer of the Year Award, which is an audience award, not just the NAACP membership. As usual, he brought it home with an amazing heartfelt speech. I HATE that it got clipped at the end…but this is NBC, not BET…we could not run long.
I Miss Your Smile!
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TERRY GLOVER has been a friend of mine for a long time. One of my first jobs after I graduated from college was in the Illinois State Arts Program. Cable was still being installed across the country and as part of the negotiation for the right to provide cable to a city, cable companies had to provide a public access channel, a studio and equipment for locals to make their own shows. I was brought in to teach folks how to use the equipment in interesting ways.
I didn’t know much about video, but I did know I wanted access to cameras and editing bays, so I stumbled my way through teaching in local high schools and community groups in a small town called Zion Illinois. Zion was founded by a religious cult who thought the world would end at the dawn of the 20 century so they went to the lake for a great view of it. When the days kept coming, they just settled in there. Most of the streets are alphabetical and have Biblical names.
On the weekends, I would pack up a camera and some lights and drive down to Chicago where I knew one person: Richard Pena, who was running the film program at the Art Institute of Chicago. Richard graciously let me stay on his couch. Eventually I met other filmmakers in Chicago like Floyd Webb, Sergio Mims and Terry Glover . With them as my core supporters, I begged, borrowed and stole my way into shooting a half hour short film called REGGIE’S WORLD OF SOUL. It was a no budget version of IN LIVING COLOR years before that show was launched.
I have no idea how I got so many wonderful people to help me out with no money, but I did. Terry had a great smile and her temperament balanced out the whole circus act.
Years later, Terry reached out to me after she became managing editor of Ebony, asking about replacing the old “Just For Laughs” cartoon section in Ebony for something relevant to the 21st century. I volunteered myself to write the new strip, and she was surprised but happy. She wanted an epic graphic novel with intrigue and politics. I wanted that too, but knew I needed to deliver some family oriented laughs too. So YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH, which mixed Cosbyesque sitcom (usually from my own life) with my ongoing obsession with transforming and uplifting my home town of East St. Louis, was born.
Terry was a tough editor, but very supportive and helped protect me from other folks at Ebony who clearly hated the political content of the strip. To keep it alive under increasing editorial scrutiny, I dumped the overtly political plotline, and focused on subversively political family humor.
Sometimes Terry would disappear, unreachable for several weeks. Eventually she revealed she was undergoing chemotherapy. But she wouldn’t really talk about it.
Django Unchained Producer's Diary: Part II
An Inside Look at the Making of One of the Season's Most Anticipated -- and Controversial -- Movies
By Reginald Hudlin From Ebony Magazine
February 2012, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
We're high in the mountains in Jackson Hole, and it's freezing. The temperature never gets above 12 degrees Fahrenheit, but when we first arrive on set at 5 a.m., it's 15 degrees below zero. You have to watch your step; I moved off the path and one leg plunged waist deep in the snow. Jamie Foxx is training to be a quick-draw gunfighter. Sometimes the guns are so cold, the misfire. They have to be warmed with hair dryers to function properly. The working conditions are tough, but it doesn't matter because the shot looks great.
February 2012, New Orleans
Quentin is very unusual in the film industry because he is "cinematically ambidextrous" -- he's as good a writer as he is a director and vice versa. He's also a brilliant film critic. One the weekends, Quentin would screen movies for the cast and crew. It might be a classic kung fu film such as Snake in the Eagle's Shadow; a great Black action film such as Coffey, or an early film in the career of a Django cast member, such as Return to Macon County with Don Johnson. The best part would be Quentin's introduction of the film, during which he would provide insights into why he loved it. His observations would transform how you saw the movie. Afterward, there would be a vigorous discussion that was better than any you'd hear in a graduate film class.
February 2012, New Orleans
Kerry Washington is on set now, and she's spending a lot of time perfecting her German. Her character in the film, Broomhilda von Shaft, grew up as the servant of German immigrants who taught her the language. This creates a special bond between her and Django's partner and ally, the German dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Although her language coach says she sounds great, she keeps practicing. she goes beyond the dialogue, learning a German lullaby that ends up in the film.
This is Jamie Foxx's second film with Kerry Washington playing his wife, and their bond is evident on-screen and off-screen. Whenever she speaks German, he beams with pride. He loves the idea of Black viewers seeing a character and an actress with that much versatility.
March 2012, New Orleans
Though we had been filming for months before Samuel L. Jackson came to the set, his arrival changed the vibe on the film. He's the actor most closely identified with Quentin's films -- especially his brilliant work in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown -- and he's made some type of appearance in nearly every Tarantino film. Jackson plays Stephen, the treacherous head house servant on the plantation where Broomhilda has been sold. Quentin and Samuel have a deep trust and respect for each other, similar to the relationship for each other, similar to the relationship Quentin has with Christoph Waltz who won an Oscar for his magnificent performance as Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. To have Samuel and Christoph and Jamie and Kerry and Leonard DiCaprio -- one of the biggest stars in the world -- feels like an embarrassment of riches. Leonard playing a supporting role -- and as the villainous plantation owner Calvin Candie, at that -- is unusual for him. But he did it because of his respect for Quentin as a filmmaker and his strong feelings about racial intolerance. In conversations with him about the role, Leonardo said he wants people to understand the twisted logic that people in that era used to justify their behavior. Despite his classic movie star looks that allow him to effortlessly play roles that would have gone to Clark Gable in another era, he's very much a member of the hip-hop generation. As each generation sheds the racial baggage of the previous one, it's important to remember how things were so we can understand where we are.
September 2012, Los Angeles
Birth of a Nation is [studied] in film schools across America. It is a historically important film because of many of the technical innovations of the time, such as the close-up, but also because it tells the story of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in heroic terms. While the racist politics of the film are dismissed out of hand by professors who encourage their students to focus on the filmmaking, I remember watching it and hearing my fellow students (none of whom was Black) cheering at offensive points of the film. When it screened at the White House, President Woodrow Wilson said, "It is like writing history in lightning," I think that was an apt description. Except for the history part. It's a period film that mythologizes the most vile racism.
I thought about Birth of a Nation while watching the first hour of Django Unchained. Sitting in a converted garage-turned-editing room in a suburban neighborhood, we were transported to another time and place. For an intense hour, we alternated between suspense, all-out action, tears, laughter, pride and love. If we got all that out of the first hour, what was going to happen when we saw the whole movie?
But most of all, I thought, this movie is the anti-Birth of a Nation. Whereas Birth painted Black men as evil brutes, Django is a full human being: strong, moral, intellectually curious and courageous. In a world where Black men aren't allowed to ride on horses because that literally elevates them, Django's willingness to shoot straight, ride hard and talk back to White men reminds us of the great men and women of courage whose stories aren't told but paved the way for our freedom.
Django Unchained Producer's Diary: Part I
An Inside Look at the Making of One of the Season's Most Anticipated -- and Controversial -- Movies
By Reginald Hudlin From Ebony Magazine
First Day of Production
As dawn breaks on the Django Unchained set, the first shot of the movie starts. Christoph Waltz, Oscar winner from his work with Quentin Tarantino in Inglorious Basterds, drives a dentist's wagon with an oversized tooth on a bouncy spring into the Western town. Next to him, a Black man is on horseback. It's Jamie Foxx, Oscar winner for his work in Ray, playing the lead role of Django. His hair and beard make him look like a cross between Jimi Hendrix, a young Gil Scott-Heron and a very youthful Frederick Douglass. He's wearing a bloody coat and hat he took from the slavers he is now free of. No shirt. In the distance, we hear the sound of a hammer driving nails into a hangman's scaffolding.
When the women on the set see Jamie, there's a quiet intake of air from all of them. He's not trying to be sexy. In fact, he's grimy and filthy. But Jamie's also in peak shape, and the image of a Black man on horseback -- bloodied but not bowed -- is so striking, it creates an electric charge that everyone feels.
Jamie's horse belongs to him, meaning he was already a rider with his own horse when he met with writer/director Quentin Tarantino about playing the lead role in the film. I don't know if a Western star has appeared with his own horse since Roy Rogers and Trigger, but it's one of the many reasons why Jamie is perfectly cast in the role. It's a physically demanding part that required months of quick-draw training, working in the subzero temperatures in Wyoming and the humid summers in New Orleans. But Jamie bears it all without complaint. He knows the ancestors he's representing onscreen endured miseries we can't imagine. The least he can do is experience a fraction of their pain to make sure his performance is accurate.
Third Month of Production
We're shooting on Plantation Row in New Orleans. I had never been on a slave plantation before, and the natural beauty of the old South, with Spanish moss hanging off the overarching trees, provide an ironic contrast with the slave shacks below them where horrible crimes against humanity were committed on a daily basis. The ghosts are still there. As tour buses playing clips from Gone With the Wind drive past, I am happy to be working on a film that will tell the truth about the brave men and women who fought back.
When we were shooting in California and Wyoming, we were focused on the "Western" aspects of the movie. Now we're focused on the South, and it's been a tough week for the cast and crew. Watching actors playing villainous overseers who tie a young woman to a tree stump as they prepare to whip her for breaking eggs has everyone on edge. While Cooper Huckabee, as Little Raj, tightens the ropes around her wrists, M.C. Gainey, who plays Big John, cracks a whip in one hand and carries the Bible in the other. In a brilliant last-minute addition, Tarantino had the idea of the character patching the holes in his clothes with pages from the Bible. Big John lectures her with completely bogus quotes from the Bible, taking advantage of her illiteracy to convince her that the enslavement of Black people is God's plan.
Now the moment we've been waiting for is here: Django arrives, grabs the whip that was about to be used on the young woman and beats Little Raj mercilessly with it. For the whole cast and crew - Black, White, Native American and Asian - it's a huge cathartic relief. Once payback is delivered, you can feel the crew getting giddy.
Set visitor Kenny Leon, the Broadway director who had just worked with cast member Samuel L. Jackson on the play The Mountaintop, can't believe what he's seeing. "I know you said he was going to whip him, but he beat him till he got tired!" He pauses, then adds, "Why can't this movie come out next week?"
After a couple of takes, I walk over to Quentin and ask, "Between the two of us, we would know the answer to this: Is this the first time in cinematic history that we've seen a slave master beaten with his own whip?" Quentin goes quiet, mind racing through millions of images in seconds, then says, "Yes." We quietly fist bump, then go back to work.
As ferocious as Django is during the scene, the minute the director calls "Cut," a compassionate Jamie Foxx re-emerges and lends a helping hand to the man he was just wailing on. "It's just a movie," Jamie would often say to put the emotional weight of the work in context.
These words electrified me. I thanked him profusely for his insights and shared the minister's story with as many cast and crew member a possible. If there was ever a sign that we were on the right track, this was it.
Reggie On The Cover Of Spider Man #700!
The variant cover of this milestone issue of Spider Man has a silhouette of the New York skyline with all the artists and writers what worked on the series of the decades. I’m very proud to have my name among them. I’m in the middle, in small, but not the smallest type. If you’d like to read my award winning brief run on the book, you can order a copy at WWW.REGGIESWORLD.COM. Special thanks to Hudlin Entertainment Forum member Hypestyle for pulling my coat about this honor.
House Party News
There’s been quite a bit of conversation about HOUSE PARTY in the news these days. Let me respond to what you may have heard. First of all, remember I only made the first one. I had no involvement in the sequels (except cashing a check because it was based on my creation). The studio made those films, and didn’t make them the way I would have. Truthfully, I haven’t seen most of the sequels. Why ruin my day?
A lot of people think it’s time for sequel or reboot of the HOUSE PARTY franchise, but none more than Full Force, who played the bullies in the original. Full Force has been talking about a sequel to HOUSE PARTY. I love Full Force, and we talk all the time. And yes, we’ve talked about a HOUSE PARTY sequel.
Then I get phone calls from actor friends telling me they are auditioning for what sounds like some direct to video sequel being shot in South Africa. South Africa? Oh and it’s being made on 4 week production schedule. So this is some quickie crap knock off.
Warner Premiere, the company who is financing this movie, is shutting down, this is one of their last corporate acts, to further stink up the HOUSE PARTY legacy. I haven’t read the script nor do I know anything about who’s in…it might turn out to be a masterpiece. But probably not.
I will revisit this subject matter, because kids deserve better than they get these days, but I’ll probably start from scratch and build a new franchise. Because I actually have imagination.
Django Unchained At SDCC
I love Comicon, but adding DJANGO UNCHAINED made it an especially sweet pilgrimage!
First of all, we flew there. How am I gonna do that four hour drive after that 40 minute flight? I’m ruined.
Next Quentin and I rushed over to the other end of the convention hall to announce the DJANGO UNCHAINED limited comic series. The book will be based on Quentin’s original script.
After some shopping on the convention floor, we headed over to the DJANGO signing booth where Quentin and the cast signed pictures for fans.
Then we hopped back on the plane and headed back to LA. A good time had by all.
New Django Unchained Spot For The BET Awards
Three cast members of DJANGO UNCHAINED – Jamie “Django” Foxx, Kerry “Broomhilda” Washington and Samuel L. “Stephen” Jackson repped for Django at the BET Awards, where Samuel L Jackson was the host. DJANGO’S first TV spot debuted that night. Wanna see it? Here it is:
Django Unchained - First Trailers
Here are the U.S. and international teaser trailers for DJANGO UNCHAINED. We were still deep in shooting when these were produced so there’s still a lot of movie you’re not seeing yet. But tell me what you think about what these:
Here’s a shot from Kerry Washington and I at the National Association of Black Journals Convention, which was conveniently held in New Orleans this year. We had a great dialogue with the press, who saw an extended reel of clips.
Kerry Washington is as lovely and intelligent in real life as Olivia Pope on SCANDAL. She’s also as good a spokesperson. Her elegant, classy approach balances out my wild man tone.
Django At Cannes
Django Unchained Footage Revealed:
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