Pass The Popcorn: John Singleton Talks Tupac & Hollywood’s Attitude Towards Black Directors
John Singleton made his feelings about black Hollywood very clear in a recent interview at Loyola Marymount University. Singleton, who was featured as part of “The Hollywood Masters” series, explained how black culture is portrayed weakly in the media because black people aren’t creating the stories. In a previous article for the Hollywood Reporter, the director posed the question “Can a white director make a great black movie?” expressing his opinion on 2013’s huge wave of black movies and the reoccurring trend – “the hiring of white filmmakers to tell black stories with few African-Americans involved in the creative process.” The Oscar nominated director-writer criticized major studios as well as black executives who don’t give their opinions on what black culture truly is.
“They want Black people [to be] what they want them to be. And nobody is man enough to go and say that. They want Black people to be who they want them to be, as opposed to what they are. The Black films now — so-called Black films now — they’re great. They’re great films. But they’re just product. They’re not moving the bar forward creatively. … When you try to make it homogenized, when you try to make it appeal to everybody, then you don’t have anything that’s special.”
Whether you agree or disagree with Singleton, he has a clear point – the people who experience the stories should have a heavy hand in production so that it is a more authentic portrayal of their culture. He gives examples of successful and authentic portrayal of black stories in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels‘ The Butler as well as Steve McQueens‘ Oscar winning picture 12 Years A Slave —all made outside of major studios. Singleton then proves his point further by pinpointing the success of Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola’s films that use specifics to garner universal truths.
“Francis Ford Coppola was the right person to do The Godfather because he had an Italian-American background. Woody Allen, his early pictures that were basically his Upper East-side, nebbish Jewish guy—unless you’re from that environment, you couldn’t really totally appreciate those films. But, even if you aren’t from those environment and you don’t get all the jokes, you love it. Because it’s taking you somewhere…”
Singleton, whose films include the milestone 1991 release of Boys n The Hood , 2001’s Baby Boy and 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious is tackling the task of making a long-anticipated biopic on Tupac Shakur. Though he has no idea who to cast, the director has been recalling his memories of the late rapper. “Then I saw him do his first interview on B.E.T. He declared war on black Hollywood — not Hollywood itself, but black Hollywood. He was like, ‘F— Spike Lee, f— Eddie Murphy, f— Quincy Jones, f— all these fake-ass people. They’re going to see a new dude out here. I’m going to come hard.’ And I was like, ‘I want to work with him!’ ” Tupac starred in Singleton’s 1999 film Poetic Justice opposite Janet Jackson. “I planned to do a lifetime of films with him” Singleton said as he had written Baby Boy for Tupac and said it would be his Oscar winning role – the rapper was killed before the film was made. Singleton hopes to present a biopic that concentrates on the essence of who Tupac was and his experiences in his short but influential 25 years of life. See part of the “The Hollywood Masters” interview below.