Singleton’s Four Brothers

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Born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles, John David Singleton burst on the Hollywood scene when Columbia Pictures optioned his script for Boyz N the Hood while he was still a student at USC. The promising wunderkind became both the youngest person ever and the first African-American to land an Academy Award nomination, after the picture opened to universal critical acclaim. He also received another Oscar nomination for the picture in the Original Screenplay category. Since then, he’s directed such urban-oriented fare as Poetic Justice, Higher Learning and Baby Boy. Plus, he’s demonstrated his versatility by venturing across genres to do a remake (Shaft), a historical drama (Rosewood), and a high-octane, action adventure (2 Fast 2 Furious). More recently, he produced the well-received Hustle & Flow, which is currently in theaters. Here, he speaks about his return to the director’s chair for Four Brothers, a revenge drama ostensibly based on the classic Western “The Sons of Katie Elder,� but updated as a vigilante flick set in present-day Detroit.

BSN: Hey, thanks a lot for the time, John?
JS: What’s happening?

BSN: What’s it like to be the only black and the youngest Oscar-nominated director?
JS: It’s cool, man. For me, it meant I was going to have a long career making movies.

BSN:  Is it fair to describe Four Brothers as a cross between Death Wish and The Sons of Katie Elder?
JS: [Laughs] Well, I see it as an original movie. It’s nothing like those two pictures. The only thing is the whole idea of revenge, yeah, is in the picture.

BSN: And the idea of sons. I know you’ve worked with Tyrese before. How did you choose the other guys in the cast?
JS: Well, Andre Benjamin, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s always wanted to work as an actor with me. So, I called him up and told him I had something for him. Garrett Hedlund, he read for the role. He played Brad Pitt’s cousin in Troy, and he was in Friday Night Lights.

BSN: How do you get a sense whether or not there’s going to be chemistry when you bring four lead actors together for a film?
JS: You don’t. I gave them skates and hockey equipment and let them play hockey.

BSN: Now, Terrence Howard’s also in this film. Between this, Crash and Hustle & Flow, which you produced, this has been a great year for him.
JS: Yeah, Terrence is having a great year.

BSN: He told me that you were there on the set of Hustle & Flow every day, but as the producer, not the director. Was it hard for you to not get involved?
JS: I was involved. As the producer financing it, I was there every day. I just wanted to make sure it was done right.

BSN: You wrote the screenplays for most of your movies. As an Oscar-nominated scriptwriter, how did it feel relying on somebody else’s script for Four Brothers?
JS: Even though I didn’t write it, I ended up changing the script around. And I re-wrote some scenes in the picture.

BSN: Are you still directing music videos?
JS: No, I haven’t done any since Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.�

BSN: What about commercials? You did some for Coca-Cola and AT&T.
JS: Nah, I just do movies, man.

BSN: You’ve made cameo appearances in some of your other movies. Are you in this one?
JS: Yeah, I’m in this one, playing hockey.

BSN: You grew up in South Central, but what part of Los Angeles do you live in now?
JS: The Culver City area.

BSN: What type of audience do you expect to come out for this movie?
JS: This one? Everybody!

BSN: And what type of message is it supposed to send?
JS: There’s no message. This is just a commercial movie about some guys trying to get revenge for their mother’s death?

BSN: She has four adopted sons in this picture, two white, two black. Why did you pick a white mother as opposed to a Black one?
JS: Because I really loved the actress, Fionnula Flanagan. I love her face. She reminds me of my 12th grade English teacher.

BSN: Did you audition actresses of all types for the role?
JS: Yeah, I did.

BSN: Do you feel like your carrying a burden as the only black director ever to be nominated for an Oscar?
JS: No, but it was cool for me to be nominated, an honor.

BSN: Who are some of your favorite directors?
JS: Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg and Howard Hawks are some of my favorite directors.

BSN: What’s your next movie, Luke Cage, about?
JS: It’s a Marvel Comics adaptation. I’ve been collecting comic books for years since I was a kid.

BSN: Who’s your favorite super-hero?
JS: Spider-Man, actually.

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