“Juice” was Ernest Dickerson’s feature film directorial debut, released in 1992; he also co-wrote the script with Gerard Brown.
After being behind Spike Lee’s camera, as cinematographer on just about all his film’s up until that point, with “Juice” Dickerson had seemingly arrived as a director at the front of what was then (early 1990s) an exciting new wave of black filmmakers who would go on to make hay over the following years.
It was also the film that introduced Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur (who was, at the time, an *unknown* as a roadie and dancer for Digital Underground) – both in breakout performances, joined in front of the camera by Jermaine “Huggy” Hopkins, Khalil Kain, and Samuel L. Jackson, and cameo appearances by Queen Latifah, EPMD, Special Ed, Ed Lover, Doctor Dré, Flex Alexander, Fab Five Freddy, Yo-Yo, Donald Faison and Treach.
Searching for relative unknowns at the time to play Q and Bishop, Dickerson audition several young actors, including Daryl Mitchell, Treach, Money-B, and Donald Faison, to name a few (all names that most of you will be familiar today, 23 years later, but who were still quite young at the time, and really without any credits (whether they were actors or musicians). So for all involved (Dickerson making his feature directorial debut, with Epps and Shakur making their feature film acting debuts), this was relatively exciting, new territory.
“Juice” would go on to gross over $20 million at the box office (released by Paramount), after opening at #2 after its first weekend in theaters, just behind “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
In the just-released video from The Academy, embedded below, Dickerson recounts the story of how Tupac Shakur was cast as one of the leads in “Juice.”