February 2003
Deliver Us From Eva : Getting to Know Gary: A Conversation with Gary Hardwick

Interviewed by Monikka Stallworth

Deliver Us From Eva: Getting to Know Gary: A Conversation with Gary Hardwick

A native of Detroit, MI, Gary Hardwick is a walking field of dreams. He’s accomplished more in his life to date than the average man will in a lifetime. One of twelve siblings, he began writing at the age of twelve. “I was just compelled to write, to express, to share these stories. It was the one thing I could never get away from.” By nineteen, Gary had completed his first novel, but it went unpublished because as Gary recalls,”they thought I was much too young.” And it was for the best because as Gary acknowledges, “I didn’t know what I was doing when I wrote it. When you’re that young you either don’t have anything to say or you’re too scared to say the thing you have to say.”

Well, a college degree, a law degree, three screenplays and five novels later, Gary Hardwick has obviously mustered up the courage to express himself and boy does he have a lot to say. Chatting with Gary was just short of mind-blowing. He’s a conversationalist with a stream of consciousness flow. I especially found his comments about African-American films in the foreign market place worthy of note. I hope that the readers will too.

Make sure to check out Gary’s latest film, Deliver Us From Eva. It’s in theaters now.

MS: I must say that I feel honored to be having lunch with you this afternoon especially since last night was the premiere of your feature film Deliver Us From Eva. Seems all of the Hollywood who’s who would be lined up to do lunch with you.

GH: Well, it’s you today honey. (Chuckle)

MS: I heard the audience’s response last night was off the hook.

GH: It was.

MS: Where were you sitting?

GH: Right in the middle and it was great because I could hear the laughter from the people behind me.

MS: I read in the production notes that the script is based on Shakespeare’s play, Taming of the Shrew?

GH: Absolutely. Calling a woman “a shrew” would be like calling a woman a “bitch” these days. And Eva is the modern equivalent of that; she is a turbo-feminist. She believes that women are superior to men, not equal but superior. Eva says “its women who bare the burdens in life and men who create them.”

MS: What made you decide to make Deliver Us From Eva?

GH: I made this movie because I wanted to see Eva on screen. I’d never seen a woman, much less a black woman like her in a movie. Eva is a woman driven by great emotions. She is strong, she is sexy, she is intelligent, she is mean, she is fierce, she is formidable; she is not to be fucked with or taken lightly.

MS: How would you describe yourself as a director?

GH: I’m a very dialogue driven director. I’m always told that my scripts are “talky”, which they are. My theory is that if the dialogue is interesting, if it’s funny and it’s witty, people won’t notice that it’s just two people talking. When you see Eva, you’ll see what I mean. Eva has some of the most witty and clever dialogue that I’ve seen in a long time.

MS: So tell me a little about your novels.

GH: In my first book Cold Medina, there’s a serial killer murdering drug dealers, but it’s really about fathers and sons and the legacy that a father leaves his son. My second book, Double Dead, was about a conspiracy in a murder involving a public official, but it was really about families and how families get destroyed and how people pick the pieces up and move on. Supreme Justice was about the enormous commitment of having a child and building a family. And Color of Justice was about the terrible burden of color differences within the black race.

MS: When you write, do you feel that you are exposing yourself?

GH: Oh, absolutely. You’re sharing.

MS: And is that something that you revel in or does it arouse fear?

GH: Well, it’s always a little painful because you realize that you’re sharing a little about yourself, but it’s okay.

MS: How do you prepare for that kind of exposure?

GH: I don’t, I just let it come. Like in my new thriller Deuce and a Quarter, it’s about a CIA agent who’s investigating some nasty goings on in Africa that have repercussions in this country, but really it’s about an extraordinary guy who’s born into an ordinary family and what that does to a family.

MS: It’s quirky to me that your novels are thrillers and that your films to date are these romantic comedies, although The Brothers did have its dark moments, so I guess you did inject a bit of darkness into that one?

GH: Yes, and “Deliver Us From Eva does too”. Eva starts out at a funeral, so somebody’s dead.

MS: Hummm. I just read your screenplay “Radio” (pending production) and I can’t recall any dark elements in that one.

GH: Well, “Radio” starts out in the police station, somebody’s been shot, so there’s a little bit of a dark element in that one.

MS: “Radio” is a fine script.

GH: Thank you. “Radio” is a celebration of youth culture, generation X & Y: hip-hop culture. Prior to this time, the only other music so popular with kids has been Rock n’ Roll and it was born in the 50s and it changed American culture. There have been musical trends since then, but no other music has changed culture since Rock n’ Roll until Hip-Hop. And not only has hip-hop changed culture, it has merged cultures. Hip-hop is the first, true musical revolution that has been accepted for what it is by both sides. You know, people accuse N’Sync of stealing R&B and Eminem for stealing Hip Hop, but I have to say, if that’s the case, they’re so much better than the people who ripped off soul in the 70s and 80s.

MS: A lot of people say that there is no foreign market for black films, yet there is quite obviously a foreign market for black music as evidenced with the tremendous success of hip-hop music overseas. And there’s the prejudiced rebuttal that they can accept our music, but not our faces-

GH: Well, I am so glad that you brought that up because I got a whole speech for that one. First of all, there was a time when American movies didn’t play overseas at all. They didn’t like us, they didn’t like our movies - they had their own cinema. So what changed that? We spent money and made efforts to open the markets overseas. But, they were only open for “mainstream films”. And we inundated them. We spent a lot of money and (film lobbyists) went over there to get them used to the idea of watching American movies, but they didn’t do it for black people (films) because at this time, they weren’t even making black movies. The 70s were over and that little era was over and it was sort of like “Well, nobody wants to see Shaft anymore.”

MS: Wait, when was this?

GH: It happened in the 60s & 70s. That’s when the foreign film markets opened up. And there was resistance, massive resistance, but Hollywood’s business mechanisms opened up the markets and they spent billions of dollars to do so, but only for white faces. And then, when the foreign market opened, they hadn’t gotten them used to seeing black people and they said, “Well, your movies don’t play” and “They don’t want to see you guys.” Well, they didn’t want to see you guys either, but you made them want to see you, why don’t you make them want to see us? “Well, we don’t want to spend the money.” And so you see, the myth is that they don’t like us, but the truth is”you don’t like us.” Here at home.

MS: (GO HEAD GARY!) Right.

GH: That’s what the truth is.

MS: Um-hum

MS: And that is actionable in a court of law because you can’t have control of the apparatus and then, deny it to people and say “you can’t have it because you can’t have it because I won’t give it to you.”

MS: (WELL!!) Um-hum.

GH: And then you become this self-fulfilling prophesy. Well of course our movies don’t score overseas, because you didn’t try to make it, you didn’t try to help us do it. You went for the market, but you went for the market that had your face on it. So we’re supposed to believe that Europe is racist? Well, where did they learn that? Who told them that we were not to be liked and not to be loved and embraced? How would they know? We export our hate; and not so much by the things that we show, but by the things that we do not show.

MS: (PREACH ON!) Um-hum.

GH: If you do not show humanity in every color, than people are left to their own devices to determine what you are and who you are. And it’s terrible, so that is how I feel about that.

MS: So had you always envisioned yourself leaping from writing into directing?

GH: No, I wrote a movie called “Trippin” and another person directed it and I think they missed the mark, they missed what I was trying to do.

MS: I heard about that film, but I didn’t see it.

GH: It was actually a pretty good film, but it wasn’t what I was trying to say.

MS: How can you ever be sure of how a reader or viewer will receive or perceive your true intent?

GH: So far, so good. It seems to me that if the writer and director of the film are the same person, there’s one less problem that you’re going to have in the interpretation. If what you feel as a writer works, then what you see as a director should also work.

MS: If you had to choose, writing or directing?

GH: Oh I’d choose writing. Writing is better; writing is more powerful; writing is everything. Just think, they’re spending millions of dollars to make some movie and it’s all because some writer went into his office and said “what if?” I believe the writer/director is the man of the future in Hollywood, pretty soon they will insist that you be able to do both on some level. And I think they’re going to realize one day that the artistic vision slips when it’s re-interpreted by the director.

MS: Some would say that the story is enhanced by a director’s vision.

GH: If you look at the movies that are done by writer/directors, I will guarantee you that they are on the average better than the ones that are not because at least the focus is there and the theme that he wants to say is pure. You may not like it, but-

MS: What do you think makes a good director great?

GH: Restraint. Steven Speilberg said that his greatest strength is restraint, to know when something is good and to leave it the fuck alone.

MS: What’s your all-time favorite film?

GH: “Malcolm X”. It makes me feel powerful when I’m finished watching it. And it was Denzel’s best work. I’ve never seen another movie, with the possible exception of Ghandi, with a performance as mesmerizing as Denzel’s in “Malcolm X.”