Recalling my Pondering The Outlook Of Black Directors Working Within The Studio System piece posted in 2012, Antoine Fuqua’s name
featured quite a bit in that article, because he’s certainly one of the most prominent black directors working within the studio system.
I’d say both he and F. Gary Gray are 2 black directors-for-hire (we could classify them) whose names have appeared on director candidate short lists most often, in recent years. Fuqua probably has the edge, however.
Browsing through this site’s archives, going back 3+ years to 2009, I
counted at least 16 different projects that Fuqua has been “attached
to,” or been “in talks” or “in negotiations” to direct.
And of those 16, 2 have become realities – both eventually making their way to theaters: Brooklyn’s Finest, his last theatrically-released feature film (2009), and, opening in about 3 weeks, the White House thriller, Olympus Has Fallen, which stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett.
FilmDistrict will release the film wide on March 22nd, 2013.
In the film, Butler stars as an unlikely Secret Service agent trying to
stop North Korean terrorists who have taken over the White House with
plans to detonate a nuclear bomb.
Robert Forster, Cole Hauser, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell and Rick Yune round out the cast.
It’s the second White-House-under-attack thriller that will be out this year; the other is Roland Emmerich’s thriller White House Down, which stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum.
S&A had a brief moment to chat with Mr Fuqua about Olympus Has Fallen, as well as that other White House thriller that will also be released this year; but we also asked him about what will likely be his next project, the boxing drama Southpaw, which, as was announced 2 days ago, The Weinstein Company picked up, after almost 2 years since it was first announced, as it moved from one studio to the next.
Eminem, who was original set to star, is no longer attached, and with production aimed to start this year, the actor who’d replace Eminem was also one of several questions we asked the director.
Of course we also had to bother him about the Tupac biopic he was once attached to direct.
The transcript of that brief chat, which Vanessa Martinez conducted, follows below:
VM: Did you know that there was another White House thriller ‘White House Down’ with Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, which comes out in June, in the works when you agreed to direct ‘Olympus Has Fallen’?
AF: Yeah I was told, absolutely.
VM: Did it have any influence at all in your decision to take the job?
AF: No, not really. I just read the script and I really wanted to make the movie.
VM: Are there any challenges or difficulties in making a film about terrorism like this nowadays, since we’ve seen several over the years, both on the screen (TV and film) but also in real life, here in the USA and overseas? Do you just dive in like any other job, or do you pause and reflect on the story, especially in relation to how at times unsafe the world is today?
AF: Yeah, well I did. As a filmmaker I found my way in and moved in. I had meetings with friends who worked with the secret service and we talked a lot about it and what I discovered was that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and that made me reflect on 911 and the fact that we put our guards down. I wanted to tell that story as a way of saying, “Keep your guards up. This could happen.”
VM: It’s unbelievable that this is your first time working with both Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman, even though you’ve all been in the business for some time. Were they both already attached to star before you signed on, or did you have a hand in selecting them?
AF: I reached out and asked them to be apart of the film and they agreed to do it. Everyone but Gerard Butler; he was already attached.
VM: How do you prep to shoot a film that takes place in the White House?
AF: We built it on set, on a real location. We built a big part of the White House, the Fountain, part of Pennsylvania Ave and interiors and all that. It was incredible. It’s just like that White House, all the info you could get. Some guys on the set from the White House got chills when they walked in.
VM: Did you work closely with the Secret Service in determining what would happen in a real life situation?
AF: I worked with my friend Joe Bannon, who used to be in the secret service and Ricky Jones and Darryl Pennington, who worked in the government in different capacities.
VM: Will we ever see the Tupac Shakur biopic he was previously attached to direct, which has been in and out of development for 2 or 3 years?
AF: I hope so. I just want a great script; it’s too important.
VM: The script is still being re-worked?
VM: It was just announced that The Weinstein Company picked up your boxing Drama “Southpaw,” which was supposed to star Eminem. Will that be your next project, and with Eminem out, who are you considering for the part now?
AF: It could be the next project; that’s the goal. Eminem is still being a part of it, whether he’ll play the lead role or not, we’re discussing that. We’re talking to several other actors that I like a lot. I like Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner. I’ve spoken to Bradley about it; I’ve spoken to Jeremy about it. There are a handful of guys I’d be thrilled to work with. There’s Ryan Gosling. But that process has just begun.
VM: So, Eminem is not out of the running.
AF: No, it’s just his schedule, busy schedule
VM: Obviously you love the action & thriller genres. Any chance we’ll see an Antoine Fuqua rom-com, horror film, even a straight comedy?
AF: Never say never. I love comedy, but to make it, I’ve never done it so who knows. But a romantic story I wouldn’t mind telling maybe a romantic drama, a romantic thriller or just a love story.
VM: Any chance we’ll see you directing your wife Lela Rochon in another film?
AF: Yeah, I’m sure there is a chance of that.
VM: Are you still attached to direct ‘Hunter Killer’ with Gerard Butler?
AF: Yes, it’s one of my projects, absolutely. There are several films that directors are passionate about, that you really like and really want to make, but sometimes the stars don’t line up together to come as fast for a lot of different reasons, and others come together much faster. But it’s something I’m attached to, and still love the story.
VM: How about your Suge Knight documentary? Is it in post-production?
AF: Mmm hmm, yep, almost done; a couple of weeks of being done.
VM: How was that process?
AF: It was intense.
VM: He scares a lot people, me included. He just “seems” evil. How does that filter into the project?
AF: No, that was my intention never. I am working on Tupac and you hear a lot of Suge and a lot of his negatives and I felt that it was important to, well Tupac’s gone so he can’t speak on a lot of things, but Suge and I talked about it, and I told him that this was his chance to speak on it, and be heard on your point of view of what happened and let everyone judge you for themselves. Give some young people insight on the rights and the wrongs of what happened, because you have such an amazing opportunity. If nothing else, younger people coming up having these big dreams of becoming a mogul or a rapper can maybe see the signs, the pitfalls and mistakes. So he agreed. I wanted to know who his parents were, how he came up, who he is, and how did he get into the business. There were controversial questions I asked him straight up. I had him take me to where the events happened that night [Tupac’s murder], and we drove down in Las Vegas, and he told me everything that happened that night. We filmed it; we discussed Tupac getting shot. I’m not painting a picture one way or the other. People can judge for themselves.
VM: We discuss race in the industry a lot at S&A, and I’m not sure if you’ve been asked this before, but how challenging is it being a black director in Hollywood?
AF: [Sighs] [Chuckles] I’ve ran into things that I believed had quite a bit to do with color, but I’ve been blessed and I’ve gotten great opportunities. I get offered films. I deal with things sometimes and I step back and try to see if it’s truly a color thing or maybe we just don’t get along because of our personalities. It’s difficult because I’ve had a lot of people do give me great opportunities, not African American obviously, but maybe Jewish or Irish or Italian, or whoever is running the studio. So for me, it’s not a difficult thing to say. We still have way to go; the whole country does. As an individual, I’ve been extremely lucky, and I thank God for people like you, and journalists that talk about things like this. But as an artist, the best thing I could do for my people or anybody is just to do good work; do strong work.
Olympus Has Fallen will be released wide on March 22nd, 2013.
Here’s its trailer: