Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the film opened last weekend, you’d be fully aware of the criticism that the N.W.A biopic, “Straight Outta Compton,” has been on the receiving end of, for its failure to address a key aspect of the group’s problematic history: the group’s treatment of women both in its music and in real life; and even more specifically, an incident that’s received much of the attention – Dr. Dre’s January 27th, 1991 nightclub assault on hip-hop journalist Denise “Dee” Barnes (she wrote a piece for Gawker which has been shared quite a bit since it was published a few days ago).
However, according to the a report by Los Angeles Times late yesterday, the original 150-page draft of the “Compton” script did include a scene that captured the violent assault. But the scene was later cut out by director F. Gary Gray, who, as he told us in an interview last week when we asked about the omission (for better or worse): “The original film was 3 hours and 30 mins long. It actually included more of the entire story that included women. And the relationships are really fleshed out. We did not forget, because it’s part of the entire story. However, we could not fit it all into a 2 hour movie. We had to weigh out what we were going to be criticized on.”
The released theatrical version runs 2 hours and 27 minutes.
I should mention that I still haven’t seen the movie yet (I’m just not that interested, in short; but I will see it eventually), so I can’t really offer any commentary on its merits.
The Los Angeles Times report summarizes the original Dee Barnes assault scene as follows: “In the scene from Jonathan Herman’s original script, a “drunk, with an edge of nastiness” Dre spots Barnes at a party following her Ice Cube interview and says to her, “Saw that shit you did with Cube. Really had you under his spell, huh? Ate up everything he said. Let him diss us. Sell us out.” The conversation then escalates to the point where Barnes throws her drink in Dre’s face, at which point he attacks her by “flinging her around like a rag-doll, while she screams, cries, begs for him to stop,” the script read.”
“The truth is too ugly for a general audience,” Barnes wrote in her Gawker piece. “I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat up…but what should have been addressed is that it occurred. When I was sitting there in the theater, and the movie’s timeline skipped by my attack without a glance, I was like, ‘Uhhh, what happened?’ Like many of the women that knew and worked with N.W.A, I found myself a casualty of ‘Straight Outta Compton’s’ revisionist history.”
Her point being, they didn’t have to show the actual assault (she herself didn’t want to relive it on screen, as she states), but they should’ve at least addressed it, instead of leaving it out entirely.
More from the Los Angeles Times report: “There are so many things that you can add or subtract. Cube always said, ‘You can make five different N.W.A movies.’ We made the one we wanted to make,” Gray said of the missing assault scene during a pre-release screening Q&A.”
It’s not revealed whether the assault scene was actually filmed and then left on the editing room floor, to use industry parlance, or if it was cut out before principal photography began.
Dre would eventually plead to the 1991 assault and received probation. Barnes filed a $10 million civil lawsuit against the rapper, but received a reported less than $1 million in the end.
And for whatever it’s worth, Dre addressed the matter in a Rolling Stone interview (while plugging the film this year), stating: “I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life… I was young, fucking stupid. I would say all the allegations aren’t true – some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back. It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again.”