3blackchicks.com

Switch to desktop

Kasi Lemmons - Talk to Me

3BlackChicks Review™... Talk to Me –Kasi Lemmons (The Diva)

Copyright 1999-Present 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

The Diva’s Interview with

Kasi Lemmons

Director of
Talk to Me (2007)


Copyright Kamal Larsuel, 2007 - Present



I’m about to face the woman who I have worshipped for years. Whenever I talk about the issues I have with black cinema, I use her work as the example of what we should be making. I’m terrified that I’ll offend her some way or she’ll turn out to be a person who hates film critics on GP. I’d worked myself up into a tizzy when she glided in. Sister Earth. Her dreds flowing about her and bracelets jingling, she’s tiny, but strong with a determined voice and aura. We exchanged introductions and upon finding out we had mutual friends, she opened up her arms and give me a big hug. The “hey girl!” hug.

She offered me some tea and food and then we sat down to business.

The Diva:
I’m a very big fan of your work. I’ve seen everything but the short you did. To the point, I’m often called upon to discuss black film and I always site “Eve’s Bayou” as what to aspire to and “How High. Booty Call, and Soul Plane” what to move away from. I often lament that it only made 9 million.

Kasi:
It made 15 million in its initial release…

The Diva:
Thank you for the correction.

Kasi:
And worldwide to date it has made about 30 -35 million.

The Diva:
Yay!!!

Kasi:
So it’s done really well for a film that cost under 4 million to make.

The Diva:
I’m thrilled to hear that I’m wrong on that, but 15 million isn’t enough.

Kasi:
No. No.

The Diva:
Not when movies that play to the base level make 30-40 million out the gate. And I’m very very happy to add “Talk to Me” to the list of movies should aspire to. Especially movies that speak of the black experience. But I have to ask. Why don’t you make more movies?

Kasi:
I usually spend most of my time trying to get movies made. So it is never that I’m silent intentionally. I work as a writer for a living. So often, I write a project that I want to direct. And the process of writing in Hollywood….the percentage of movies that get made is very low compared to what is developed. So after my second film, I was involved in a film that took *years* and I thought it was going to get made we had a big star attached and then it fell apart, but this is an ordinary occurrence as you know. With you covering Hollywood, you see it all of the time. It’s normal, but that was four years of my life and then gone. POOF. So I do spend a lot of my time trying to get films made.

The Diva:
How long did it take for you to get this movie made?

Kasi:
I want to say 3 years actively.

The Diva:
Wow. That is a long time. You are one of my favorite directors. I just love you truly.

Kasi:
Thank you. I am flattered, really and as flattered as I am, there are other \s that I look to and who I find interesting. Gina Prince-Bythewood, of course Spike – I think he is going to go down in history of one of our greatest directors – Plus there are some women who have been around for sometime Julie Dash, Cheryl Dunye she made a great film – Stranger Inside.

The Diva:
I hear you and I appreciate what you are saying, but I still love your work more. Spike makes great films, but they don’t always speak to me. Yours movies always speak to me. I think he is a great director. I don’t always agree with his comments, so I don’t think I would gel with him on a personal level, but your work never disappoints me. I’ve seen everything you’ve done except Dr. Hugo.

Kasi:
That’s on the DVD of Eve’s Bayou.

The Diva:
Oh okay. Great! More of a reason to go out right now and buy it. I still have my VHS that I’m wearing out.

Kasi:
I think you’ll like it. It’s a funny little film.

The Diva:
So “Talk To Me”. Why this film?

Kasi:
It’s a very interesting thing because I had been exposed to the script. It had been floating around town and I read a couple of different drafts. And then one day I read it and it was like stepping off a cliff. I fell in love with it. I just fell in love and I think one of the interesting things going on at the time was the beginning of the Iraq War and earl on, people were very afraid to say anything. “You’re unpatriotic, you’re not on the team” yadda yadda yadda and I just felt that we had entered in this time of conservatism and I was like “what’s with this?” People are afraid to talk and say what’s on their minds and there is a resistance to say it in public. And there was this out-spokeness in the script that I really appreciated. I thought of it as an anti-censorship movie. Jumping ahead to after I was attached to the film and we would take it places, and they would suggest watering it down, I knew that was not the place to do this movie. This movie has to be raw. That was one of the things that appealed to me. I really quickly realized that – and why I fell in love with it – that I could do a black power movie that was a comedy, a drama, a love story – between two men- a platonic love story like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” you know, the real deal in terms of a buddy film it’s just really well written. And a musical. It was like Wow! When do you ever get an opportunity to do this?! And to speak to the issues in the 60s and what black people were feeling and to have this uncensored voice. I just started to think, you know this movie has everything and I think it has so much to give.

The Diva:
I agree with you about the road of censorship. I personally have a problem with the N-Word, but in this movie, it didn’t bother me at all. To not have used it would have taken away its authenticity.

Kasi:
Yes it’s authentic to the period and the culture at the time.

The Diva:
I especially loved when he first met Martin Sheen’s character and he said, “we don’t use that word here” and Petey Greene turned around and said, “what’d that n***a just say?” I cracked up. I also really loved the relationship he had with Taraji’s character. How much do I love her, by the way. She is fabulous and she was robbed over Hustle and Flow.

Kasi:
She is fantastic. Just fantastic.

The Diva:
I know it’s early and I’m not good at predicting, although I picked Ray and Erin Brockovich a whole year in advance, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Kasi:
I’m staying out of it. You just never know and that stuff aside. I believe in these actors. There were so good and Taraji owned that role.

The Diva:
Totally! I called XXX( our mutual friend) and told her that she had to see this movie and to get a screener or something, but see this movie. Of course I didn’t know that you two were best friends so it goes without question that she would support you. Anyway I told her that there was not one bad performance. Even Cedric who only had 5-6 minutes of screen time rocked it. And more importantly, It]s a story that needed to be told. I recognized the names, but I wasn’t really putting it together. Then you did the Title card at the end. Now is Kathy Hughes his daughter? Forgive me but I’m a little off on the dates..

Kasi:
No. Kathy Hughes is his ex-wife. He walked away from it all and let her have it. And they are the best of friends. They’ll always be best friends. In fact, Kathy saw it before Dewey saw it. He waited for her to call him and tell him about it. They are best best best best best best friends. Do they have any children?

Kasi:
Not together. They each brought a child to the marriage.

The Diva:
What about Petey? Did he have any children? Because by my calculation they were together about 26 years.

Kasi:
Petey and Vernelle? Vernelle is a composite character. But Petey does have children. I met his nephew recently. He came to one of the screenings. And he looks just like him, but I haven’t met any of his children. I hope to be able to meet them one day. Did you listen to tapes or something to capture him?

Kasi:
There isn’t a wealth of information. There are many many many many many many articles. There is of course Petey’s book but for legal reasons I was not allowed to read it. This movie was Dewey Hughes’ story and told from his point of view so we had Dewey and I got to sit down and talk to him. But he also was really involved. He talked to the production designer and the actors. That was great. But I did have a couple of wonderful tapes. I had his comedy and a couple of his shows. I was able to listen to him and appreciate who he was. Oh and a documentary that has both Dewey and Petey in it.

The Diva:
How’d you get D.C. 1966?

Kasi:
Well its difficult you have to… well we shot a lot of it in Toronto, but of course we also shot in DC. But to make it look like a different time and a different place, we looked at a lot of photos and we worked loosely with a production designer to get the details down. Like for instance the signage. We looked at tons of photos to get the signage right. Wanted to make tings look as authentic as we could and we had many challenges along the way. Because nothing is the same. Like the temperature of the street lights because they use different lights now. Literally everything is different now. Not just the street signs, but the quality of the lighting is different. So you deal with what you can control “Can we change the light boxes out?” you know? And they’ll say “Yeah you can change these 4, but you can’t change these over there” Or you have to look this way, because if you look hat way, you’ll catch a skyscraper that wasn’t built in the 60’s. so choosing were to focus also plays a part. And as I said, changing the signs and the awnings around the buildings because that’s all different, too. We chose our locations carefully. We chose things that looked good to begin with. And you’re like “if I squint really hard, I can kind of see the 60s” and the production designer comes and tells you “No, this is all wrong look at the awnings..” But you do what you can especially when you are on a small budget. But I’ve done it before. I did it on “Eve’s Bayou” of course it was easier because we were in Louisiana and not so urban so because this was D.C, we had to be careful and then when we were shooting we had to deal with the same thing as Toronto. “what looks exactly the same or close to what it looked like then?’ And can I make sure you aren’t looking at what your not supposed to see. I can see it, but I don’t want you to see it.

The Diva:
I think you did a really good job. I wasn’t around in 1966, but what I know was authentic aside from the music was the clothes I remember those clothes. Pictures of my grandparents dressed like that and personal memories of my parents wardrobe.

Kasi:
Weren’t they fabulous?

The Diva:
They were so FABULOUS.

Kasi:
I had a very amazing and brilliant costume designer, Gersha Phillips.

The Diva:
I wanted to wrap this up, I wanted to comment on one more thing that I appreciated about this movie. – The boldness. It takes a lot of courage to speak out now in this current climate.

Kasi:
It does.

The Diva:
But to speak out then in the midst of the civil rights movement? Wow. I love this story and its one that should be seen and heard.

Kasi:

One thing we know, people who see it, love it. It tested well with all audiences We just have to get the seats filled. Once you see it, you don’t regret it. You just have to go see it.

And there you have it. Friday July 27th, is a very full day. But take my advice, of all the movies you can see this weekend, “Talk to Me” is the only one truly worth the money.

Developed by Francis Doody

Top Desktop version