August 2002
Serving Sara : An Interview with Director Reginald Hudlin

Serving Sara : An Interview with Director Reginald Hudlin

Hollywood has taken note of diversity on the silver screen, but now we are seeing major changes taking place behind the camera. It’s been a long journey from House Party to “Serving Sara.” recently sat with Reginald Hudlin, director of Serving Sara, to talk about his journey and this recent opportunity to add to his repertoire by working with such blockbuster talent as Elizabeth Hurley and Matthew Perry.

AAH: Did you have an expectation of working with Matthew Perry since we all know him so well as Chandler from Friends?

RH: When we first sat down to talk about the movie, we quickly got on the same page as far as what type of movie we wanted to make. In the beginning there is always a feeling out process to determine what everyone’s priorities are. Once we agreed that we did not want to put Chandler on the big screen, we wanted to make a very different character, more edgy, rougher but with the verbal comedy that people expect from Matthew Perry.

AAH: What made Elizabeth Hurley Ripe for the role?

RH: Conceptually, the idea is to take a mismatched couple, and put them in a place that is inappropriate for both of them. So you have a hip urbane guy and this beautiful woman from England, and you dump them in Texas. They are two fish out of water.

AAH: How did you and Elizabeth Hurley meet?

RH: When Liz and I first met, we also quickly got in sync. Very early in our conversation we found out that we both were silly and loved Monty Python. So once we tuned into that wavelength, where “you find this funny? I find this funny!” were just laughing and joking and I said, “wow, the person you are – the day we’re having, lets just put that on the screen. That’s fantastic! I don’t know why anyone else has not gotten it, but I get it!”

AAH: Tell us more about the logistics. Take for instance the luggage belt scene. How tricky was that?

RH: Very tricky. We went to the factory where they actually make conveyor belts for airports. I can tell you after my research, what happens to our luggage after we see it, is a very scary thing. Its zooming and banging so I felt it was really dangerous, and I also thought – wow this is great! We had an effects team that carefully worked through all of the stuff. When I actually put my stars onto the conveyor belt, I thought, well – we’ve worked this through, but something bad could really happen. But that’s where comedy comes from.

AAH: Would it be safe to say that no bulls were harmed during the making for this film?

RH: The Bull had a crooked smile at the end of the day…

AAH: Did you wonder how far Matthew would go?

RH: No, Matthew was always very gung-ho about the scene. We always knew that it would be a huge comedic set piece. Actually, who impressed me was Elizabeth. At one point she grabs the bulls tail and picks it up. I did not ask her to do that. I’m thinking, wow, you have a bull by its tail – we’ll just see what happens.

AAH: Did you have to convince her to do these things?

RH: Again, she always got why doing all this crazy stuff was funny and she always wanted to make sure it was done in a tasteful manner. The lucky fellow on the other side of the [motel] glass is Mike Judge, the creator of “Bevis and Butthead” and “King of the Hill.” He is a friend of mine. I called him up and said Mike I need you to do me a favor and be in a scene for me and the down side is, you have to be on the other side of the glass when Elizabeth Hurley lifts her shirt. He drove over night to get there!

AAH: Did you have to actually shutdown production at one point?

RH: We shutdown very briefly, but we picked right back up. The great thing about doing a comedy is you fall into a rhythm. Basically, you are laughing all day and you get paid for it. When we started back up again it was literally like taking a weekend off and we fell right back into it.

AAH: Was there much improvisation that went on during the scenes?

RH: When you have guys with the comic imagination like Matthew Perry and Cedric “The Entertainer” you don’t say, “slow down, stick to the script!” We encouraged them to cut loose and do their thing. My job as a director is to act as a traffic cop. An actor will have like (12) twelve ideas and I will suggest, well these (5) five are hot. Actors appreciate that because they don’t want to go too far. They want to have someone to protect them.

AAH: You seem so relaxed about the whole thing. But you when you are directing monster truck scenes in a stadium do you ever have a moment when you think you might not be able to keep it all together?

RH: Ford Coppola had a great description of directing. He said, “its like running in front of a freight train. You cannot slow down, you cannot look back, and you can’t stumble or it will crush you.” The monster truck scene was very similar in that respect. At the same time that is the point of the job…but you’re having fun and you know when people see it they [won’t have] seen that one coming!

AAH: Tell about your experience with directing this film, as a black director, with a predominantly white cast.

RH: I think its great. Race is a social construct. It does not literally fit. It’s something that we make up. Once made up, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of. Once you deal with it. You say, look, I am directing another comedy, the same as all the other comedies I have made. I just direct talented people, and there is no difference. Then people go, oh right, there is no difference. Then you go great. The other movie I did was a comedy; this film is a comedy.

AAH: How difficult is it for you to get scripts like Serving Sara?

RH: The big deal about getting a script like Serving Sara is not that it is a white script, but that it is a good script! I am fortunate enough to have been offered a lot of different projects. Most of them have been black projects. But you never know what you don’t get offered because people [figure] you can’t do something because they figure you can’t make the leap beyond race. So it’s hard to quantify that. However, hopefully other directors and me can.

AAH: When you were at Harvard did you always know that you would be doing comedies like this?

RH: Well, I knew I always loved doing comedies. I did House Party and I got inspiration from movies like American Graffiti and Animal House. I always had a great passion for doing comedy. That said, no one wants to be pigeonholed. I want to do it all.

AAH: What was it about your style that made the studio think you would be a good fit for this movie?

RH: I know Matthew is a huge fan of Boomerang. He said to me, “If you do for me what you did for Eddie, in Boomerang, that would be great.” This is my fourth movie with Paramount. At this point we have a really good working relationship.

AAH: How did you get to Harvard?

RH: Well, my brother went to Yale and my parents were always big on Education. Some of my aunts and uncles have PHD.’s so the idea of going to college was assumed. The question was really how far you were going to go and what you wanted to do. I think that’s the right way to do it. It’s kind of easy to learn how to make movies. The question is, what are you going to make movies about.

AAH: Thank you very much.

RH: Thank you.