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Craig Brewer Director of Hustle and Flow

 

The Diva's interview with
Craig Brewer
Writer and Director of
Hustle and Flow (2005)

 

 

 


 

Copyright Kamal Larsuel , 2005

3BC:
Are you concerned about the images of black folks in this film and are you prepared for community backlash - from black men in particular who would like to see themselves as people who are not on the under belly of society?

Craig: I understand it. It is something that I understand the question of “Am I perpetuating it or am I exploring a character.” Is he just another pimp? When was the last time you saw one and when did you see one that isn't Wearing suits and talking jive. D.Jay is a pimp that has no pageantry, he's moving girls from shake shack to shake shack. There are no spoofs D.Jay and you won’t see him in video. I think the real examination should be that of the word in our lexicon. A 13 year-old can go the a party dressed as a pimp. What’s scarier, that he went dressed as one or that all the other kids know that he is one? I didn’t want cartoon character or a caricature of what we normally see as a pimp. I wanted to flip that.

3BC:
I’m certainly one of those people who criticize the images of black folks in the movies. But it’s more so for me – for example a Woody Allen film or Cameron Crowe with the ONE black person in it is a pimp or a prostitute. With this movie you know what you are getting from the get go.

Craig:
And I agree with you. It was messing with us that they wanted D.Jay to be a caricature. They felt if I lampooned him, made him a joke, the black audience would buy it. Don't make him human. We don’t want to identify with him. It’s okay for us to identify with leg breaker for the mob who wants to up against Apollo Creed. But a person like D.Jay can’t be human in their eyes. You hope he makes it Despite his flaws.

3BC:
This movie reminds me of a 70’s black exploitation movie, Where did the idea come from and how was it filmed??

Craig:
CB: Well we used a handheld video camera super 16 millimeter and fortunately the old 70s movies were shot on that as well. And you know I’m a kid of the 80's. I grew up on “Flash Dance”, “Footloose”, and “Purple Rain.” Music was an important part of these movies and my life childhood and it seemed natural to have it be such a vital part of this movie.

3BC:
The way that the film was shot and the location, really drew me into the movie. I think I was asking for a fan, myself!

Craig:
I fought to keep the movie in Memphis – I wouldn’t film it anywhere else. Then John Singleton came through with the financing and I was able to keep it here. Memphis and the heat and humidity were important to the film. I wanted you to see the sweat and that kind of insufferable heat. It’s almost inescapable at times. You had feel trapped like D.J. so you could understand where he was coming from.

3BC:
How did Terrence get involved?

Craig:
I’ve known his work for awhile, but the studios didn't want to use him. He wasn't star. You know Hollywood only has about 5 black stars and Jamie Foxx just became one of them. There are only few big black stars that they go to, but there is so much talent out there. Hill Harper is a very good actor, for example. The studios only have a few areas in African American film that they want to spend their money - only if it’s funny or an action movie, but I didn't want to make us identify with a joke and T was the only that could pull it off.

3BC:
This kind of goes back to my earlier question D.J. is pretty raw and the language is hardcore.

Craig:
It came from a place that wasn’t on the paper. I can count on one hand how many “niggas” I had in the script. But Terrence was hanging out with my friends like Al Capone from 36 Mafia and Juicy Jay. That’s where he picked up “Mane”. I wanted him to soak up some of the experience of being a black man from Memphis and a rapper. It worked. I didn't want them to tone it down because it comes from a real place. I didn’t want them to tone it down for my sake because I’m white. Or for the sake of the studios. It’s real.

3BC:
Are you from Memphis originally?

Craig:
I’ve spent the last 11 years in Memphis, but I grew up in Vallejo, California in a community that was split down the middle about 50% percent white and 50% black. It was an integrated community; we were divided more by money than race. I love Memphis and I wanted to give a different look of the south. Hollywood has had a fair run of gimmicks with cross burning etc. I didn’t want to revisit that.

3BC:
Did you go to USC or NYU

Craig:
I didn't go to college.

3BC:
Really? I kinda flunked out too my first go round, so there you go.

Craig:
You know what they call people like us? Autodidactic

3BC:
Ohhhhh

Craig:
Do you know what that means?

3BC:
Uh no, I flunked, remember?

Craig:
LOL it means self taught. You and I are self taught people.

3BC:
Can you tell me a little about “Black Snake Moan”

Craig:
Yeah the publicist mentioned that you were really excited about that movie because of Sam Jackson. Are you a big fan of his work?

3BC:
Yeah and I’m the webmaster for his official site, but keep that on the low (laugh).

Craig:
I’ve been to that site. I really like it.

3BC:
Thank you! I work really hard on it. It helps that Sam takes it seriously and participates over there. He’s a great guy.

Craig:
He is. I’m so happy he signed on BSM. Anyway Samuel L. Jackson (as you know) , Justin Timberlake, and Cristina Ricci are the 3 Definitely signed at this point. You know, everyday I wake up and I just think about Sam as the character. Can you imagine the pain and heartache he is going to conjure up? Just the look on his face. Man. It is amazing. I can not wait.

3BC:
Reminds me of Eve’s Bayou. He was in the soul of the character. Exactly , and the woman who shot “Eve’s Bayou” and Caveman Valentine” Amy Vincent shot “Hustle and Flow”. We’re going to do for Blues, what H&F is going to do for crunk.

3BC:
What’s up next for you? Are you going to stick with the smaller personal pieces or branch out for some blockbusters.

Craig:
Small personal pieces and big ones, but I want them to take in the south. Like “The Devil’s Music” it’s what I’m working on next. We don’t have s studio or anything, yet. So it’s a little premature. And to tell the truth I want to get through “Black Snake Moan” first. But you know about Robert Johnson, right? Yeah: He met the Devil at the crossroads and that’s how he learned to play guitar. (editor note there is may be some discrepancy about this folklore. Some believe that Tommy Johnson was a famed blues guitarist, who, according to folk legend, sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchange for his talent. Robert Johnson, another bluesman wrote a song about it and thus the folklore became attributed to Robert, not Tommy. Others believe that it was always Robert.)

Craig:
Right! Well the story that I’ve written, “The Devil’s Music” takes on That folklore and flips it. It’s about the Birth of Rock and Roll. B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Ike Turner and Howlin’ Wolf all meet the Devil at the crossroads. It’s a thriller with Black music as the back drop. It’s almost like a black “Lord of Rings”. It’s part fantasy and part thriller. The Devil is after Elvis because he is making black music. Anthony Anderson is my B.B. King and Justin Timberlake is my Elvis.

3BC:
Sounds quite interesting!

Craig:
Yeah, I really want to get it made, but I have to get through Black Snake Moan first .

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