Category Archives: Hollywood Insider

Spike Lee, 15 For 15, By Michelle Alexandria

“”Bamboozled”” marks Spike Lee’s 15th film, in 15 years, the prolific and always controversial director’s latest project throws a pipe bomb into the current debate of racism in Hollywood. His impressive body of work includes classics like, “”Do The Right Thing””, “”Clockers””, “”Malcom X””, and “”Jungle Fever””. Spike uses his films as a billy club to force America to look at its ugly history of racism and continually remind us how that legacy still serves as an undercurrent to the racial attitudes that we all harbor today, whether you are black or white.

In his latest effort, “”Bamboozled””, he takes on the continued racism and stereotyping in the television Industry. This “”intensely thought provoking”” satire, makes wince, while you laugh at it. “”Bamboozled”” manages to elicit several distinct emotions in you at a single time, anger, laughter, held back tears, and even defiance at the same time.This award-winning director who sparks controversy with just about every thing that does and says recently sat down with EclipseMagazine and a roundtable of journalists from other organizations. Hi reputation precedes him. We expected him to be angry and controversial, but was surprised [and a little disappointed] to see him relaxed, happy, and ready to go toe to toe with us. RoundtableDid you have any problems pulling the cast, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Damon Wayons, Savion Glover, Tommy Davidson, etc. together?SpikeNo, they read the script and wanted to do it. They thought they where very good parts and could contribute to the movie.Roundtable When you look at blacks in the media today, what do you see as today’s minstrel shows?SpikeWell, where are you from? (He asks the reporter, reporter responds, “”I’m from BET.com””) [Spike, laughs], you guys [BET] show a lot, those videos you guys show, gangster rap, are a form of minstrel shows. Bling, Bling… I call them like I see them.Roundtable The Rev. Calvin Butts in NY, went off on a particular video, TLC, can you give us an example, or examples of videos that you feel are minstrel or something that set you off?Spike[Referring to elements in Gangster Rap Videos] The Bentleys, the ever flowing Cristal, the standard shot of people throwing $100 bills at the camera, the scantily clad – not my words – “”ho’s and bitches””, constantly gyrating. Bling, Bling….Roundtable Other than Gangster Rap Videos, what other shows, Comedy, or otherwise would you consider minstrel?SpikeI think there are shows on television that are boarder line minstrel. I’d hope that this film would show that in this new millennium you wouldn’t have to wear blackface or put on a minstrel performance.Roundtable Can you be a little more specific?SpikeNo, I think that’s as specific as I need to be.Roundtable Was there a difference in between in footage quality between the narrative portions and the television show?SpikeWe shot the show on Film, while the rest of the movie was filmed on Digital Video.RoundtableThe film really does a good job of showing the behind the scenes workings of the “”industry””….SpikeWe were trying to show how the industry works, but also show that we are partly to blame for what gets put out there because we are a part of it. We accept these roles.RoundtableAfter viewing the film some of us talked and discussed the pain that we felt while watching this film. At times, it’s also really funny, when can you laugh and not laugh?SpikeThe film is Satire and we want people to feel uncomfortable laughing at it.RoundtableAre people laughing with us, or at us?SpikeIt depends on who is doing the laughing. You really can’t dictate how people are going to react to your film. All you can do is put it out there. I don’t think this film is, “”ha, ha, ha,”” I think that people should be uneasy while they watch this film.RoundtableHaving said that, do you want people to walk out of this film thinking about their relationship to other people, their race, etc.?SpikeEverything, their relationship to the images, what they watch, what they think is funny, and to understand the history of racism in the Industry, etc…RoundtableIn a recent interview, someone asked you why there was no solution outlined or suggested in the film. SpikeI’ve seen this before, when “”Do The Right Thing”” was criticized because it didn’t offer any solutions. At the end of the film, you leave us hanging out in the wilderness without any answers. I think it’s a cop out to diminish the work.RoundtableThere was a lot of violence in this film. Did you have any reservations about including it?SpikeNo, I think the violence in the film is a comment on violence. It’s not exploitation or promotion of violence.RoundtableWho do you blame for the current slate of minstrel shows? The black actors who consent to do them or the producers who produce them?Spike There is enough blame to be spread around. The best thing about this film for me, is that I have tremendous respect for the original black actors who were forced to do minstrel shows and put on black face in the past. While at the same time, it’s made me even more critical of us [and I include myself] for what we do now, because we have a lot more choices in what we can do today.RoundtableFive years ago it used to be that African Americans where always the villains and that time they were completely a moral, one-dimensional killers drinking 40’s and doing drive-bys. Nowadays, it seems like Hollywood is over compensating by having white actors play the bad guy roles, the only difference is, now the villains are nice and cuddly, fully three dimensional characters. The type of guys you want to bring home to mother. For example, the Bruce Willis, character in “”The Whole Nine Yards””, is a killer, but a “”loveable killer””. Do you think that now that white actors are taking on bad guy roles Hollywood is more sensitive to how the character is portrayed than they were in the past, when black actors would play the bad guy?SpikeWell, they have always done that. For the most part, whether you are a black or white actor, the villain has always been the choice role. What has to change is the diversity of the writers.RoundtableNow that Hollywood, seems to be scared to have a black actor play a bad guy, while at the same time they don’t want them to play the hero either, do you think there are less roles for black actors today?SpikeIt depends on who the Heroes are. I think Denzel’s character in “”Remember The Titans”” is a hero. I don’t want to make any blanket statements, but I don’t think we have the range of roles that every one else does.RoundtableFrom a hip-hop point of view, we were talking earlier today about it becoming it’s own form of minstrel.Spike[laughing, and interrupting] wait, wait, I didn’t condemn all hip-hop, it’s the Gangster Rap that I don’t like. RoundtableDo you think there is anything on television now that serves as a good counter balance to the negative stereotypes?SpikeWell, I was watching the Yanks game, so I haven’t seen Gideon’s Crossing yet.RoundtableSomeone mentions that it has some annoying gospel music….SpikeIsn’t it funny, that whenever you see black people on television that they have gospel music playing, even on “”City of Hope””. [joking] Every single time… I mean, I’m not saying that we don’t love gospel, but we have a range of musical interests.RoundtableHow do you respond to the Time Magazine article that says that “”Spike Lee’s, Bamboozled, shames us all, you have rage for the powerful, and contempt, for the masses””…SpikeI have compassion for the masses, while at the same time you have to show people the truth. I think shame comes from the institution of television and film. If you look at the final montage of this film, it shows the legacy of the Industry. It’s funny if you look at the Academy Awards, they always have the 3-5 minute montage that shows the history of film. You may get a shot of Whoopie, or Denzel getting whipped, or Mookie throwing the garbage can through the window, but I say we start a petition to make the Academy Awards show the final montage of “”Bamboozled.””RoundtableSpeaking of the “”Bamboozled”” montage, why didn’t you continue it to the present day and show a linkage, did you think it would be too heavy a statement?SpikeNumber one, we feel that we do that to some extent with our commercial [they do a spoof of designer Tommy Hillfinger, calling his stuff Tommy ‘Hillnigger’] and the mou-mous [a spoofed gangster rap group]. Number two, there’s no way those groups would allow their videos, and clips be used in a montage like this. RoundtableWhy didn’t you handle this subject in a Documentary form?SpikeHow many people see documentaries?RoundtableHow much of Michael Rapaport’s character came from your direction and how much came from within him?Spike Michael Rapaport is nothing like that character. He’s very cool people, he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, he gets outraged when young white kids come up to him and say “”what’s up, my nigger.”” Unfortunately there are a lot of Dunwittys [Rapaport’s Character] out there, especially in this Industry and also running a lot of these rap labels. To get back to an earlier point, I don’t think every black person in my films has to be 100 percent “”angelic””, that you can’t have a crack head in the film, to me that wouldn’t be very realistic. My point is, there has to be a balance and I would like to see the characters be fully three-dimensional. As I said before, most villains have the meatiest parts.Roundtable You said that you were convinced that there are white people in Hollywood who think they know black people, better than black people themselves. Do you think that it’s possible for a white person, to know a black person better than another black person?Spike[laughing] I think that if I where white, and I thought that was true, I wouldn’t tell a black person that.RoundtableDo you think Generation X will understand what you were trying to accomplish with Generation X?SpikeI think they will.RoundtableIn the film, what do you think made the minstrel show so successful, was it the hype, or do you think the audience where naturally drawn to it?SpikeA combination of both.RoundtableWhat is your definition of a “”Minstrel”” show?SpikeIt’s something that everyone needs to make up their own mind, it’s not something that you would find a clear definition of in the dictionary.RoundtableHow do you respond to the following statement, “”this is a film that white people, definitely need to see, but black people can pass””… Their are black people who feel that “”we’ve seen this already before””, that “”we know our history”” and it’s “”too depressing to watch””.SpikeI disagree. I think everyone needs to see this film. A lot of black don’t know our history.RoundtableWhat part of the film affected you the most?SpikeFor the actors, Damon and Savion said it killed them to put on the black face every day. That it scared them emotionally. You can see them getting dehumanized and see their real emotion. For me, I’d say the end when we killed one of the characters. RoundtableWhat are your plans for the future, and what do you think of the Internet’s ability to bring new programming to the masses?SpikeIn the next few months we will be making some announcements about several new television projects that we are working on. I’m tired of all the comedies on television so we are creating new dramas. I don’t really see the Internet being a replacement for television, it’s fine for short films, but I don’t see a lot of people watching that little screen for an extended period, maybe in the future, but not now.RoundtableDid Savion’s statement “”as long as I’m hoofing and making money, it’s all good”” mean that young people only care about making money and not the consequences of what they do?SpikeThat’s not just young people. I think it’s up to each individual artist to make their own decisions as to what they think is right for them.Fini

Director Ann Lu Has Big Dreams of Hollywood Success

Ann Lu enters the skirmish known as filmmaking with “”Dreamers,”” a movie, coincidentally about the struggle itself. As of this writing, the eventual release date for the film remains indeterminate, pending a distribution agreement. It seems the final hurdle to the silver screen is the most challenging.

Imagine spending one-third of your time making films, and the other two-thirds haggling with powers-that-be. This is the true life of a filmmaker, beneath the varnish manufactured by Hollywood itself. When a filmmaker is not thanking critics for their praise, giving interviews to flattering writers, or running to the bank to deposit their latest seven-figure check, they are struggling: with investors and executives, with accountants, with cast and crew, with the power company and the IRS, and very often, with their own soul.For most, this struggle is too harrying. After a few years, they strike the tents, and retreat to vocations that offer more tangible rewards. Those are the people the industry doesn’t want; the non-professional, the easy capitulator. Its system is a well-constructed sieve, ensuring that only the grittiest sort remain in their auspices. All successful filmmakers remember their time being shaken through the proverbial sieve.Nascent filmmakers, regardless of talent, experience its purgatory. There are hundreds out there right now, fighting a single-handed war against artistic oblivion. It is a desperation that denies introspection, and eludes expression with words, at least until one has distant hindsight.It can, however, be portrayed with images. With “”Dreamers,”” Ann Lu has done just that. A visual memoir of the present, a cathartic outcry at times, “”Dreamers”” rolls all the frustrations of artistry and young life into a ball of gleaming images. Two kids, Dave and Ethan, shield themselves from hectoring childhoods with dreams of celluloid glory, which hold a power and beauty much like the sun sitting above the hills of eastern Tennessee, the film’s setting.Dreams are like amulets: intricate, splendorous, a charm worn for guidance, and also a weight that holds some in place and causes others to drown. As adults in Hollywood, Dave and Ethan learn– all too soon and all too well– that while dreams protect against some of the calamities in life, they also tear the soul apart from the inside.Their story does not resolve itself in their favor: their abilities to make these dreams work for them are not particularly potent; they are not prodigies. Nor does the story actually “”end.”” The artist who surrenders will find that his replacement has already arrived.Ann Lu is the new blood. Cautious, passionate, and imaginative, she makes you believe she deserves success, and is due, even if this is her first time as director. I picture her in China–before coming to U.S. in 1993– standing alone in a yellowing field, looking towards the sun. It is afternoon, the sun hangs in the west. She follows it in her mind.AntagonistHer aspirations have a powerful foe in contemporary Hollywood politics. With skyrocketing budgets, studio heads must be more cautious: they cannot produce many $ 50 million-plus movies that nobody goes to see. By necessity, contemporary films need to be commercial more than they need to be good. Which usually means they are familiar. The small, personal films are being turned down for their limited appeal, and the simple fact that the studios have less money to make them. For outsiders like Ann, there are now fewer inroads. She even worries if a director like Stanley Kubrick could succeed in contemporary Hollywood: “”Things were easier back then; studios were run by filmmakers. Somewhere, the M.B.A.’s took over and put emphasis on testing, marketing, and merchandising. It is hard for filmmakers with an agenda to fit in. Somehow, they have got to find a way to reconcile artistic integrity with commercial viability.””Her attitude is pessimistic, not defeatist. In fact, she believes industry is ignoring these films to their own detriment: “” It is a mistake to underestimate the size and purchasing power of people who watch this type of film. If they focus their product entirely for the seventeen year old ‘popcorn muncher,’ they are missing a whole group of people who can see value in films with personal vision.””””Even the way things are now, I think if you don’t give up, somehow you will get a break. I don’t know how: I’m still waiting for mine; but I think that if you wait long enough, you will find a way to reach audiences.””Eyes, Hands, and VoicesArt is material vision. The artist is simply one who knows how to use the given tools to make internal vision into material fact. In filmmaking, many of these tools happen to be other artists. Actors, cinematographers, set designers, and many others are artists just as much as writers and directors. Each brings personal vision to the project. The challenge of a director is to utilize these many visions in a way that successfully portrays her own. Without the talents of Neal Fredericks at her disposal, Ann could not have made such a distinct film. In “”Dreamers,”” camera angles and shooting techniques cross your mind more often than acting, dialog, or editing. Neal plays it to his best advantage, never letting you forget that the camera is the voice and not the eyes of the film; a viewer sees the characters and scenery with only as much sympathy as the cinematographer has himself.He is playful, even hedonistic with the photography, shunning the conventional, eschewing the objective, establishing the camera as a flamboyant presence within the film. He shoots dreamers in 35mm, 16mm, and video, according to Ann’s conception of the film. He also shows strong technical ability by conquering the film’s challenging lack of artificial light.At this moment, he is better known. His cinematography in “”The Blair Witch Project”” ( for which he has received only $5,000) was a serious topic of discussion last year, with its herky-jerky frames and varying picture quality. Neal got mixed praise and scorn for his facsimile of amateur camerawork. “”‘The Blair Witch Project’ is the first movie I know of that tried to portray reality with total immediacy and spontaneity”” he says, in part referring to the largely ad-libbed dialog.””Can I interrupt?”” Ann interjects. “”I was just thinking about [Ingemar] Bergmann’s ‘Persona,’ and the way it blurs the boundary of reality and illusion. ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is about the surface of reality, which in this movie comes off as an illusion. It intrigues me why this movie caught on with the public. The thinking is all improvisation, which makes it feel like an intrinsic record of the present. I think that opens a link to every audience. “” I believe Ed [Myrick] and Dan [Sanchez], were having a Bergmann moment during that shoot. They set out to do nothing more than re-create reality.””Neal adds: “”So many of us re-create reality in our own measured way. In the eight days of shooting, I think we set out to re-create reality in a more horrifying way.””””This film is one without control.”” Ann replies “” If there is no control, what is the point of being a filmmaker? I think if Bergmann saw ‘Blair Witch,’ he would say ‘why didn’t I make this?’ It has a lack of conscience in confronting reality. It intrigues me.””Neal: “” I could shoot a feature film. They are a dime a dozen. I prefer films that make the best use of camera and lighting. I like controlling my position, even if I am afraid to get involved. A real film director, like [Ann], controls the look. Her main style is to find places that match her imagination. For instance, she found the coffee shop that appeared in [“”Dreamers””], and she said to me: ‘look, this is the way my coffee shop looks ‘. “”Ann concurs: “” More than anything else, I want to re-create reality.Everything I did in this movie was creating the right environment, the right mood. That is why I only used natural lighting [which meant a lot of neon]. The goal was to reflect the psyche in the context it was in. Neal’s work helped achieve that. The look was self-reflective; very much about seeing and being seen.””Sexual BodyAnn and Neal met six years ago in Atlanta, working on “”Compelling Evidence,”” a B-erotic thriller. Ann has never gotten over the experience: “”I like films about sex and violence. The films are enjoyable in a primitive way, because they portray the human condition so shamelessly.”” “”Dreamers”” is a sensual if not erotic movie, containing several fleshy sex scenes. This is likely to become an Ann Lu trademark: “”I enjoy sex, it is part of life. I dream of breaking into people’s houses to have sex. If people go to a movie of mine and find the sex somewhat entertaining, that’s great. Movies are supposed to entertain. But if you go in, and come out wanting to write an essay about it, that’s fine too.””The set of the film was not immune to the tension created by differing sexual attitudes: “” Dave’s sex scene was a problem. The actor– Jeremy Jordan– is sexually ambiguous. Sex doesn’t mean much to him. Well, he had problems when it came time to do the scene. When they both took their clothes off and got close, Jeremy freaked.

An Interview with David Koepp By Courtney Kenny

David who? Many people may not recognize the name David Koepp, but they certainly know his work. He’s the man behind such blockbusters as “”Mission Impossible,”” “”Jurassic Park,”” “”Carlito’s Way””, and more. Note – This is an old interview that we conducted with David, but now that Spiderman mania – which David also wrote, has taken hold of us, we felt that it’d be neat to take a trip down memory lane and re-run this.

David Koepp, 36, was born and raised in the small town of Pewaukee, Wisconsin. He moved to Los Angeles to attend film school at UCLA and lived there for several years. Koepp first tasted success when he co-wrote and produced, “”Apartment Zero,”” directed by Martin Donovan. He later went on to write some of the top box-office hits of all-time, including Steven Spielberg’s “”Jurassic Park”” in 1993, Brian de Palma’s “”Mission Impossible”” in 1996 and Spielberg’s “”The Lost World: Jurassic Park”” in 1997.He made his feature directorial debut in 1996 with “”The Trigger Effect”” after previously directing the short film, “”Suspicious,”” in 1995.In his latest film “”Stir of Echoes””, Koepp took on the difficult task of writing and directing a film based on the renowned book by Richard Matheson. “”Stir of Echoes””is the story of a husband/father whose life changes after he’s hypnotized at a party. The man, Tom Witzky (played by Kevin Bacon), crosses over into a world where he can see everything that is going on around him, including the otherworld He’s become a receiver. And, he’s not alone.The dead surround him, sending him messages that he can’t understand. Tom must find a way to cross back over. But, not before he finds out what he’s received. David Koepp joined us to talk about making “”Stir of Echoes””, working with Kevin Bacon, and

John Singleton, Older, Wiser, more Reflective Director. An Exclusive One on One

At the age of 24, the youngest individual and the first African American ever to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, John Singleton made movie history with Boyz ‘N the Hood, his astonishing 1991 directorial debut. An intensely personal portrait of life and death in South Central L.A. that was inspired by the director’s own experiences, the film earned Singleton comparisons to past wunderkind Orson Wells and heralded him as one of Hollywood’s most important new directors. John followed up his amazing success with “”Boyz ‘N The Hood””, with other personal films like Poetic Justice which featured the film debut of Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, Higher Learning, and Rosewood. Last year John went mainstream with the smash remake of “”Shaft”” which starred Samuel L. Jackson. With his latest film, Columbia Picture’s “”Baby Boy””, John returns to his “”Boyz N The Hood”” roots with this intensely personal drama about a black man’s struggle to find his way in life.

Over the years John has been credited with discovering new talents like Cuba Gooding, Jr., Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, and igniting the careers of stars like Lawrence Fishburne and Ving Rhames. He hopes to have the same midis touch with his latest finds, R & B star Tyrese Gibson and Taraji Henson. We recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with John and his newest prot

Baby Boy’s Taraji Henson, On The Cusp of Fame. By Michelle Alexandria

Actress Taraji Henson has done it all and seen it all. This hot young star grew up in “”the hood”” as she calls it. We Washingtonians like to think of it has plain old Southeast, Washington, DC. One of the roughest neighborhoods in the country, at one point known for having the highest number of murders per capita than any other neighborhood in the country. Not a pleasant distinction to have. Although she grew up around rough surroundings, her parents made sure that she got out and experienced life. She spent many summers in the country with her grandparents, and attended and graduated from Howard University. With her outstanding work in acclaimed director, John Singleton’s newest film, “”Baby Boy””, ready to break down the doors of Hollywood. One cannot help but get caught up in her unbridled enthusiam and optimism.

EMTaraji. How did you get involved in this project?TarajiI went in and auditioned for it just like everyone else did. Because John was looking for new faces, it was basically like a cattle call. I went and read for John and the casting director told me that he really liked my work. Right after that he went into production on “”Shaft””, so I didn’t here from him until a year later.EMDid you study acting or was working before you went in for this audition?TarajiYeah, I did a lot of television. I’m professionally trained and can do it all. I do Greek Tragedy, Comedy’s, Shakespeare, anything. You name it I can do it.EMHas this movie opened doors for you?TarajiThis town is all smoke and mirrors. It’s not really going to have an affect on my career until the movie actually comes out. There’s a really good buzz going on about me right now, but most people will wait until they see how well the movie does at the box office. Everything in Hollywood is about the bottom line, money. I mean they are impressed by the fact that I’m in a John Singleton film, but it boils down to the dollars. EMWhere did you get the emotional strength to do that character?Taraji [laughs]My past. I just lifted up that old carpet and looked at the dust that I had swept under there. EMSo you’ve had yourself a Jody?TarajiOh my god, more than I care to remember. No more though, I’m over the Jodys EMAs a filmgoer, you know we like things to be in black and white. One of the things I was trying to figure out during the film was – is Jodie a good guy, a bad guy who gets redeemed in the end, or what?TarajiHe’s just a guy, a guy who is trying to find his way. I think, my character A.J. said it best, “”Sometimes as people we always want answers in black or white, we don’t want to deal with the gray. That’s where we learn our lessons in life – in the gray and you have to be willing to live in the gray.”” You have to not know what the future brings. I can walk out of here today and get hit by a bus tomorrow, you have to start living your life now.EMDo you think that so many black women, and really women in general are single now, because we do not want to deal with the gray?TarajiI think that has a lot to do with it. A lot of problems in black relationships is that we like to point the finger at each other instead of taking personal responsibility for our own actions. If you know you are in a relationship with a mamma’s boy, why are you taking care of him? Why are being his mother?EMAs young girls we are told that you should watch how a man treats his mother, because that’s how he’ll treat you. Is there a fine line?TarajiMost definitely, I’ll tell you one thing my son will not be a mamma’s boy. I think a lot of times as women we are told so much that a man will be unfaithful to you, after hearing that so many times you start to accept it. I’m not buying that. I think that if I can be faithful – so can he.EMHow close are you to your character?TarajiI’m a spitfire. There’s no doubt about that, but I can communicate. If I say I hate you, then I hate you, there’s no two ways about it. I’m not saying that I love you or any of that stuff. EMDo you find that all of your different experiences help you bring more to your characters?TarajiThe more you live the more seasoned you are in life helps you bring your characters to life. Acting is nothing more than the experiences that make up your life.EMWhat has the experience been like working on this film?TarajiAmazing. At first I was so intimidated, running around like a scared chicken. I remember when John, first called me. I was so nervous, I mean John has accomplished so much and here he is calling me personally, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking and I kept accidentally hanging up the phone. EMNow that you have the cache of having worked with John Singleton, what projects are you working on now?TarajiNothing, I’m just waiting for the film to come out. When it blows up, I’m sure the phone will start ringing off the hook.