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Salim Akil On ‘Sparkle’ Studio Input: “Was A Nice, Small, Fun Movie Until Whitney Died & Then It Was Crazy”

Salim Akil On 'Sparkle' Studio Input: "Was A Nice, Small, Fun Movie Until Whitney Died & Then It Was Crazy"

Well, one day S&A will be big enough to get a sit-down interview with Salim and Mara Brock Akil. Until then, we’ll have to pinch from those who are big enough, like The Hollywood Reporter, who published a lengthy piece on the dynamic duo, today, on its website.

Titled Hollywood’s Undercover Hitmakers: Salim and Mara Brock Akil, the intro reads:

They’re black, Muslim and gorgeous in an industry not known for its diverse embrace. Yet the husband and wife have made one Hollywood winner after another, and now have Whitney Houston’s final film, “Sparkle,” as their biggest bet yet.

Naturally, I dove right in, and read all 3 pages.

As you’d expect, it includes back-story on both husband and wife, from their youthful days, to how they met, entered the business, their experiences in it through to the present, and of course, conversations about their latest effort, the soon-to-be-release Sparkle.

I especially want to draw your attention to this section of the piece:

After Houston died, sources say executives at Sony Pictures swooped down on the film, handing Salim reams of notes, some of which even came from studio chairman Michael Lynton’s wife, Jamie. (Lynton had taken a great personal interest in the film, negotiating to buy the remake rights from Warner Bros.) “This was a nice, small, fun movie until Whitney died, and then it was crazy,” says a source with ties to the project. Salim had a cut that he was happy with, but the studio dictated certain changes. When asked about it, Salim chooses his words carefully. “I am happy with it,” he says. “There’s always the director’s cut and the cut. … I think the wonderful thing about the process is that my voice was heard. Michael Lynton was generous with his time when I wanted to talk something out.”

Remember in June it was revealed that...

… sensing potential for the film’s numbers after Houston’s sudden death, [Sony] sent a lot of notes to Sparkle director Salim Akil, whose wife Mara Brock Akil penned the screenplay. Unfortunately, at that time, Akil was close to a final cut of the film. When THR’s Kim Masters interviewed him for an upcoming episode of KCRW’s The Business, she noted that she had heard directives had even come from Sony CEO Michael Lynton’s wife, Jamie.

Needless to say, the above is what the June piece was referring to. But I’m glad that we now have a bit more of that story, and directly from Salim, as opposed to just speculation, or un-named “sources.”

But reading into the first block quote from THR’s profile today, my interpretation of Salim’s words is that the cut we are all going to see, when the film opens next week, isn’t exactly the cut that he initially had, and was said to be happy with. Although he says that he’s happy with the cut that’s being released, however, maybe there’ll be a director’s cut released on Blu-ray at some point. 

It’s certainly should be no shock that a studio’s decision trumps a director’s. It happens often, I’m sure. They’re the one’s backing these projects financially, and so have control over them – even creative control.

So, Salim having to implement studio dictates is par for the course. But what I found somewhat humorous was this sentence: “This was a nice, small, fun movie until Whitney died, and then it was crazy.

Yeah, I’m sure :) The studios likely saw the potential for greater box office, thanks to Whitney’s death, and they sought to exploit it. It’s all about the dollars and cents, right? I’m now really curious what these numerous notes and directives Sony brass sent to Salim Akil were; “More Whitney,” perhaps?

But check out the whole THR piece, which is a worthwhile read, especially if you’re not up-to-speed on the blossoming House of Akil. It’s not often we have a black power couple BEHIND the cameras, creating, writing, producing and directing work with predominantly black casts, for the big and small screens.

Also, you’ll read about Mara’s dismay at the lack of awards recognition for the actresses in Girlfriends, and her annoyance at the lack of diversity in writer’s rooms for shows that don’t have predominantly black casts, even though that’s often the approach with shows that DO have predominantly black casts.

Check out the profile HERE.

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