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August 2007
ILLEGAL TENDER: An Interview with Producer John Singleton

An Interview with Producer John Singleton

By Wilson Morales

August 20, 2007

Lately it seems that John Singleton is looking to new flavors to the business. Having directed urban films such as ‘Boyz n The Hood’, ‘Baby Boy’, and ‘Shaft’, Singleton has producing films that most folks wouldn’t have gambled on. Two years he took a chance on Craig Brewer’s Hustle and Flow, which landed Terrence Howard an Oscar nominationand won the award for Best Song from Three Six Mafia. Earlier this year, he producing Brewer’s follow-up film, ‘Black Snake Moan’, which starred Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci in a girl tied to a chain film, and coming up is his first venture with Director Franc Reyes, ‘Illegal Tender’, which features an all-Latino cast. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Singleton talks about getting involved with the film, the marketing of the film, and his upcoming projects, which includes directing Halle Berry in ‘Tulia’.

How did you come about to produce a film featuring an all-Latino cast?

John Singleton: Well, it’s about time. I just felt that the audience is such a huge audience and it’s underserved. There hasn’t been a really cool movie with a Latino cast that everybody would want to go see in a long time. I figured that by doing it, I can create a revolution. If you make a pop culture movie that everybody wants to go see, then you start a whole new thing. The same thing happened with the black audience.

Being a director yourself, how much involvement did you have with the story, or were you just a producer on the film?

JS: Franc pitched the script to me, and I told him that if he could write it in three weeks, then we could make it. He pitched it, wrote it, and I made some modifications to it, and then we made the movie. That was it. It was so simple.

With the emergence of Latino films that came from abroad, do you think the time is right to American Latino films?

JS: The Latino films that came out last year were awesome; all of them. This is a different kind of thing. ‘Scarface’ is a Latino film but they didn’t have a lot of Latinos in it. They had a lot of Anglos playing Latinos. That’s what this is. It’s in the same vein as ‘Hustle and Flow’ and ‘Baby Boy’. It’s a general market movie but it happens to have a lot of Latinos in it. People who want to see a cool gangster movie they will see this, but there are others who see it on another level and say, ‘Wow. I can’t believe that they did it this way.’

Franc says that there are two stories to this film, the mother-son relationship and the gangster story. How do you see it?

JS: I’m selling it as a gangster movie first and foremost. I felt that the mother and son aspect of the film is the weight and the texture of the film, but at the heart of it, it is a gangster film.

Haven’t we had one too many gangster films?

JS: Everybody wants to see a gangster film. ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ is a gangster movie. Even though they don’t have guns in it, it’s a gangster movie. It’s a great genre. It’s a genre that people come back to over again.

What do you want folks to leave the theater with after they see the film?

JS: This is not one of those movies where I’m trying to get a message out to the public. It’s just a cool movie.

You see to be producing more films lately than directing. What sort of films intrigues you?

JS: I just like movies that are really interesting. I do stuff that’s counter culture to what the ordinary thing is in Hollywood. I do the opposite. It’s hipper, and has more soul and heart.

What challenges are you facing when you are trying to take these projects off the ground?

JS: Nothing. There are no problems. I greenlight my own movies. There’s a difference between doing this way and being around a table talking to people about why the movie should be made. I get the movie and I go ahead and make it. It’s very liberating.

What’s your next project?

JS: I’m directing ‘Tulia’ with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton, and hopefully Columbus Short from ‘Stomp The Yard’. Lionsgate will distribute the film.

Are you also producing it as well?

JS: Yes, I’m co-producing it and co-wrote it.



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