Friday, February 23, 2018

BARRY, JOHN, JORDAN, & LEE On HOLLYWOOD REPORTER MAG!!!



In the 90-year history of the ACADEMY AWARDS, only four BLACK PEOPLE have ever been nominated for the prestigious award of BEST DIRECTOR!!!

These four individuals are BARRY JENKINS for MOONLIGHT (2016), JOHN SINGLETON for BOYZ N The HOOD (1992), JORDAN PEELE for GET OUT (2017), and, LEE DANIELS for PRECIOUS (2009).

Hear from BARRY JENKINS, JOHNSINGLETON, JORDAN PEELE, and, LEE DANIELS, On RACE, POLITICS, And, HOLLYWOOD for The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER Magazine.


Here are some interview interludes:

John, take us back to 1992. You’re 24 years old, and you’re at the Oscars as the first African-American best director nominee ever. You’re up against Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone ... what do you remember?
SINGLETON Well, first of all, I’m f*ckin’ scared. (Laughs.)
Why is that?
SINGLETON Because I thought it meant my career was over. I thought, “That’s their way to get me out.” I was really very humbled by it, too. I was a year out of film school when it happened, and I just sat down and tried to write and study film even more than I already had so I was up to that honor. At the same time, as a black man in America, my other fear was not wanting to necessarily lose myself in the hype of Hollywood.
Lee and Barry, can you empathize with that feeling of fear?
DANIELS For sure.
JENKINS Definitely. For me, I didn’t make Moonlight for the awards conversation, and when it ended up there, I was shocked the whole way. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And then with how things ultimately went in the end [with the mistaken announcement that La La Land had won best picture], because of how loud it was and all of that other stuff, I’ve never been as distraught as I was at the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars.

You four are part of an exclusive club now. Which directors deserve to be in it who aren’t?
JENKINS The list is far too long. You’d have to include both men of color and women. But the fact that Spike [Lee] is not sitting in this room ...
SINGLETON I always feel like I got nominated because Spike was passed over for Do the Right Thing [in 1990].
PEELE Both Do the Right Thing and Boyz N the Hood are masterpieces. For me, I always wanted to be a director. Since [I was] 12 years old, it was my dream. And I think one of the reasons I didn’t go into it was because I had John, I had Spike, we had the Hughes brothers and Mario Van Peebles at the time, and it felt like these geniuses were the exceptions to the rule. And I felt like, race aside, it’s the hardest thing to do to convince people to give you money to make your vision, and I think I was protecting myself and I moved away from that dream. I followed acting because it was this immediate response from the audience, and clearly my soul needed that kind of fortification. But then in recent times, seeing what Lee has done and what Steve and Barry have done and now it’s Ava [DuVernay], Dee [Rees], Ryan [Coogler], F. Gary Gray, it feels like this renaissance is happening where my favorite filmmakers are black, and it’s a beautiful club to feel a part of.
I’m curious to hear what doors these nominations did and didn’t open up for you. Were you suddenly on the lists for big studio movies? 
SINGLETON I wasn’t offered everything, but I also wasn’t sitting waiting to be offered everything. After I was nominated, Hollywood didn’t know what to do with me. I knew what I was going to do myself, though. I had my next movie [Poetic Justice] lined up with Janet Jackson and Tupac starring in it already. I learned from Francis Coppola, who had given me some advice. He said, “Try to write as many of your works as possible so that you have a singular voice.” So that’s what I was trying to do, be a writer-director. Then I got mired up in the drama where I wanted to actually explore different genres, but I felt there was a ceiling of what they wanted me to do. It’s interesting though, because I’m doing this [FX] show now, Snowfall. It’s a popular show, and I could have done it 20 years ago, but they said, “Who wants to see Boyz N the Hood on television every week?” Now, everybody wants to see Boyz N the Hood on television.
DANIELS If you really want to be real, we could only do “black” stories. And until recently, it was, “How can black movies make money?” I don’t know if you can call it racism, maybe it’s just the business and the naivete about who our audience was. People have learned through Empire and through Black Panther and through Get Out.
SINGLETON Even though there’s America and there’s black America, there’s a pluralism in entertainment right now. Jordan’s film is not a full black cast, but it’s a black movie and it’s also not a black movie. It’s a piece of popular culture.
JENKINS Jordan Peele is America. (Laughter.)
SINGLETON He can go do a movie with anybody. He can do a movie with a full cast of different types of people. 
DANIELS And that’s the door that he opened.
Are there certain subjects that would be better left to white or black filmmakers?
JENKINS I have an interesting perspective on this now having made Moonlight. I debated if I should even make that film because I’m not gay.
DANIELS And yet he was able to tap into the human condition that transcended sexuality.
JENKINS What’s interesting in the question for me is to be aware that the question exists at all. And then to do the work and to be responsible about it. I don’t have [author Tarell Alvin McCraney’s] experience; what do I have that’s relatable to his experience? Let me go knock on somebody’s door. Let me go to a friend or a loved one who has that experience and go, “Will you share with me? And if you share with me, I promise to take the things you share and try to translate them in a way that is responsible and respectful and meaningful.” And that was what I did with Moonlight. I sat down with Tarell because Tarell lived that experience. And as an artist, I had to really have a come-to-Jesus and go, “OK, I don’t know this better than him, so I have to really inject the things he tells me.”
SINGLETON There are two sides of this coin. The Last Emperor was a huge hit when it came out, and Bernardo Bertolucci is Italian, not Chinese. But he did his homework. Steven Spielberg did The Color Purple. Black people assailed against that when it came out, but it’s a classic among African-Americans now. But for every one of those films that was made by someone who was from another culture exploring something that they were interested in, there are these stacks of [films by non-black filmmakers] where black people have had to say, “OK, at least they tried.” And, see, I come from the standpoint of, “No, it’s not about f*ckin’ trying.” There are enough people now that you can go to, to have a conference with or to say, “I don’t understand this world, can you help me?’’ So, I’m not assailing against anybody white trying to do a black story — try it, but get someone to help you.
PEELE I tend to feel the same way Lee does in terms of anybody can make any movie, they just gotta do their homework. That being said, when I was in the middle of writing the party scene in Get Out, where [these white people are] coming up to Chris [the black boyfriend of Allison Williams’ character] saying their black “in,” like, “I know Tiger [Woods],” it was this epiphany. I was like, “This has to be a black person directing it.” This experience, a white person won’t [get it]. I can tell them what it’s like, but there’s something else that is intrinsic to my experience. And so that’s the moment I realized I had to direct this movie because we don’t have the guys who are going to come down and do a $5 million horror movie that has this kind of risk. 
DANIELS When I was doing The Butler, we happened to be in the same edit bay as Spike and George Wolfe down in New York City. I was having a problem with a scene, a big scene, and I said, “Y’all gotta come in here because I’m freakin’ out.” And they came in and it was great because there is a specificity. Unless you know that the hot sauce goes on the collard greens with the right kind of garlic, you ain’t gonna know. You know what I mean? (Laughter.)
PEELE Exactly. Another phenomenon that this is all connected to, to me, is this idea of the white savior trope in films. There’s probably a lot going on there, but the way I’ve interpreted it is that it’s an olive branch for the white people in the audience in a racially charged movie to know, like, “You’re included in this story.” And there are beautiful films that do it. One of my favorites is Glory, where the Matthew Broderick character is in a lot of ways [director] Edward Zwick saying, “I don’t know the black experience, but I see through the eyes of this character who is empathizing with the black experience.” With Get Out, I wanted to make a movie that ripped the rug out of this idea of the one good white character [and make the character] evil and see what that would do.
We started with the 1992 Oscars, and I’d like to end with the 2018 awards. What advice do the three of you have for Jordan?
SINGLETON I already told you I didn’t enjoy it because I was nervous as hell, but you’re different. You had a career as a performer before you were a filmmaker. So, everything now is just gravy for you. It’s just gravy.
DANIELS And keep that smile on. The world will be watching every move on your face, so when they mention your name, smile, and keep that same smile even if you don’t win.
PEELE As the tear goes down the cheek ...
DANIELS Yeah. (Laughs.) And John told me this when it was my turn, and I don’t know whether you will be able to, but embrace that you are talented and that you deserve to be at the table. Take it in. I didn’t.
JENKINS I have mixed emotions. It’s cool to be here now a year later because all the things I felt like I wanted to do heading into the ceremony, I did. We went and made Beale Street[based on the James Baldwin novel], and we’re making Underground Railroad at Amazon. Those were things that were going to happen whether we lost or won. And for two minutes, we lost. And in those two minutes, I was still self-satisfied because I knew I’m going to go off and do these things, you know? Winning or losing is not gonna take any of those things off the table. But it’s bittersweet because when that switch happened, I didn’t enjoy it. And I look back on that whole process, the process that you (looks to Jordan) have handled very well, my friend, and all that shit comes together at the end and because of how things went down, I didn’t enjoy it. And I’m never going to get the opportunity to enjoy that — because even if it happens again, it won’t be the same. Moonlight was a very special film for me. It was super-personal, as this film is for you, so, bro, I’m gonna have to say what he said: Smile, yeah, but enjoy that shit, man, ’cause you earned it.



-CCG



"I’ve never been as distraught as I was at the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars. It’s not the kind of thing where you go running off with pompoms. I wasn’t sure that thing was mine or who it belonged to because of how everything happened," Jenkins says.




Singleton on why he was scared at the Oscars in 1992, where, as the first African-American best director nominee, he was up against Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone and Barry Levinson: "I thought it meant my career was over. I thought, 'That’s their way to get me out.' I was really very humbled by it, too."




"Spike, John, Ava, Dee, Ryan, F. Gary Gray ... it feels like this renaissance is happening where my favorite filmmakers are black, and it’s a beautiful club to feel a part of," Peele says.





"When did I figure out the game was stacked against me? When I was born. Next question,” Daniels says.





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