Entertainment Weekly recently dedicated an entire issue to romantic comedy films. Boomerang was one of the films featured in its list. Here’s the complete interview I had with the reporter from EW:
THE UNTOLD STORY OF “BOOMERANG,” EDDIE MURPHY’S UNDERRATED ROM-COM CLASSIC
Boomerang (1992 movie)
GENRE: Romance, Comedy
February 11, 2019 at 11:02 AM EST
Every day until Valentine’s Day Entertainment Weekly is celebrating our special romantic comedy-themed Untold Stories issue. Check out all of our behind-the-scenes tidbits, reunions, and oral histories here and follow #LoveEWstyle on Twitter and Instagram.
The legacy of Eddie Murphy’s 1992 hit Boomerang is almost ridiculously impressive: It featured a breakthrough performance by a young Halle Berry; it was the only top 20 movie that year with a predominantly black cast; and the triple-platinum soundtrack helped launch the career of then-unknown singer Toni Braxton.
For his first romantic comedy role ever, Murphy chose an up-and-coming director named Reginald Hudlin, whose 1990 breakout hit House Party earned over 10 times its $2.5 million budget at the box office. The comedian sent Hudlin a script about a playboy ad executive named Marcus (Murphy), who gets his heart broken by a man-eater named Jacqueline (Robin Givens) before falling for no-nonsense artist Angela (Berry). “I immediately responded to it because I love that kind of romantic comedy. I am always interested in taking black characters in genres that we are not typically seen in. In the same way that House Party was me looking at American Graffiti and Risky Business and going, ‘Hey, we should make a movie like that!’, Boomerang was me looking at all my favorite romantic comedies and going, ‘Hey, we should have a movie like that!’”
With Murphy attached, says Hudlin, Paramount Pictures put Boomerang on the fast track. “It was like, ‘Here is the release date — do whatever it takes to make sure this movie is in theaters on this date,’” he recalls. Though one particularly ignorant studio exec was skeptical — “They said, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to make this work. I mean, Eddie Murphy in a romantic comedy? He’s got that broad nose and big lips’” — Boomerang went on to earn $70 million at the U.S. box office and became a rom-com classic. For EW’s special rom-com issue, Hudlin looked back on the making of Boomerang, including working with the comedy all-star cast (including David Allan Grier, John Witherspoon, and Martin Lawrence) and, of course, the mushroom suit with the matching belt.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: One of Marcus’ quirks is that he can’t date a woman if she has unattractive feet. In the beginning of the movie he hooks up with a beautiful woman named Christine, played by Lela Rochon, and Marcus is horrified to see that her feet are… unfortunate. So I have a very important question: Were those really Lela Rochon’s feet?
REGINALD HUDLIN: No. Lela Rochon has beautiful feet. We had our crack makeup department apply corns and all kind of terrible stuff on her feet. We did not have a foot model — we just jacked her foot up for the shot.
We must talk about Grace Jones, who is brilliant in the film. Was the part of Strangé written with her in mind?
That was totally written for Grace Jones. We had to get Grace Jones, there was no Plan B. On set was she was fun and she took it all very seriously, right? In the scene in the boardroom and they show her the model of what the bottle of perfume is going to look like – we were just doing a half-speed rehearsal. I was like, “Look, you pick up the bottle, you hate it, you toss it down, and you go off on everybody.” Grace is not big on half-speed, so she took the bottle and she slammed it and it ricocheted across the room. I was like, “Grace, we only have two of those!”
In the boardroom, she would flip her hair and the hair would land in Eddie’s face, and then Eddie would pick the hair out of his teeth. I remember Halle being completely unable to hold it together. I would look over and Halle had tears coming out of her eyes because she wanted to laugh so hard — Halle was just like, “Please, please stop!”
Strangé’s entrance, when she bursts out of the crate on a chariot pulled by shirtless man-slaves — what was that like to film?
Well originally, we had talked about her coming in with panthers on leashes. And they were like, “Well Reggie, you’re in a room with a couple of hundred extras, and if any woman in that room is on her period, those panthers will rip themselves loose and tear them to shreds.” I said, “So not panthers… We’ll go with people.” I just thought ok, her with these beefcake enslaved men felt right. That seemed to be the statement we needed to make.
Probably my ultimate Grace Jones moment was when Grace and Eartha Kitt [who played cosmetics company matriarch Lady Eloise] met on set. Eartha Kit goes to Grace [in Eartha Kit growl], “You’re doing me, but you’re doing it wrong!” And she started correcting her purr. “It’s like this, Arrrrr, arrrr, arrrr!” It’s like, Oh my God you’re right — they are the same persona, but different eras.
One of the funniest moments in the movie is when John Witherspoon’s character arrives to Thanksgiving dinner wearing a coordinated mushroom-print ensemble, and Marcus is fascinated by it.
Everything about that is a great memory. First of all, my costume designer Francine Tanchuck, who is really a brilliant costume designer, she would always show me [several] options for every character. So with that one she had this blue leisure suit for Johnny Witherspoon, and the mushroom suit, with the mushroom lining for the inside of the jacket and the [matching] belt. I said, “This is a false choice… There’s only one way to go — we have to rock the mushroom outfit.” She laughed like, “Yes, of course.” So that was not scripted, that was just wardrobe delivering one of the greatest of all movie outfits.
So if they hadn’t given you the mushroom suit option we wouldn’t have had that amazing scene?
You would not have seen that scene. We’re there, Eddie sees the suit, and we say, “Action!” And we do like three takes. And then we turn around David Allen Grier responding to their conversation, just so we can have cutaways. It was magnificent. The two days of shooting the Thanksgiving sequence were probably the funniest two days of my life. By the time I finished shooting on Friday and I went home, I had a headache — and I realized I had a headache because I was laughing so hard, I had oxygen deprivation [laughs].
Eddie and John just came up with that interaction on the spot?
Yes. It’s like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, that’s what you saw… You have the funniest people in the world. If there was a day where it was Eddie and David and Martin? David and Martin would stand together, and they would just be doing something funny, so you would notice the crew gathering around them because they just wanted to eavesdrop on whatever comedic brilliance they were doing. And then when Johnny Witherspoon and Bebe Drake joined the group, it was like now this is literally too much funny. This is a completely unbearable amount of funny.
I remember when we were shooting [the Thanksgiving scene], somehow we started joking about the idea of David Allen Grier’s parents having sex in the bathroom in the middle of dinner. We just started talking about that idea on Friday, and I thought about it all weekend. I would just lay in bed laughing about the prospect of that idea. So Monday morning, I’m running on set trying to find Eddie to tell him, we have to shoot that scene, and when I find Eddie, he’s running to me to say, “We have to shoot that scene!” I’m like, “Yes! Yes!” We had both been obsessing over it all weekend.
Later in that scene, Marcus and Angela watch an episode of Star Trek, and Marcus calls Captain Kirk “the coolest white man on the planet.” Was it always in the script that he was a Star Trek fan?
I’m a Star Trek fan, and it happened to be owned by Paramount, so we knew we could get the clip. Eddie just free-styled on it beautifully… Spock Jenkins! [laughs] It’s so good.
In 1992, you didn’t see a lot of movies (or TV shows for that matter) about black professionals.
For Eddie, it was a chance to be his whole self. The personas of [48 Hours’] Reggie Hammond and [Beverly Hills Cop’s] Axel Foley are great characters, but people just kept wanting him to do the same thing over and over again. So [with Boomerang] he could finally be more who he was as a person… It was very deliberate, for example, that he’s styled almost exclusively in Theirry Mugler suits… Usually a black professional in [movies or TV], either you are smart but corny, or cool but in the ‘hood. But there’s all these cool people who work in these jobs, whether they work in an ad agency or on Wall Street. I was one of those people, I knew all those people. It was like, let’s just show the world we live in.
Eddie never wears a tie in the course of the film. He looks totally professional but he’s totally cool — so much of that was making that statement and showing more than one kind of black guy. We felt like with David’s character and with Martin’s character, we really got to show, “Here is the corny guy, here is the cool guy from the ‘hood, and here is the alpha. But you know what? They’re all friends.”
The movie doesn’t pretend that racism doesn’t exist — like when Marcus and his friends get tailed in a clothing store by an anxious white clerk — but it’s not something the characters obsess about.
It doesn’t define their lives. There is a whole sub-genre of cinema which is all about black people being oppressed by white people, and there are good and bad movies in that category — and that should exist. But there’s a whole other world of people who don’t sit around talking about that all the time. We wanted to tell stories that hadn’t been told yet. And for black audiences, they were like, “Oh my god, this is crazy — this is my actual life, and I’ve never seen that [on screen] before!”
I’m producing the NAACP Image Awards again for the sixth straight year. Here’s one way you can participate – by voting on the Entertainer Of The Year.
The 2019 NAACP Image Awards ‘Entertainer of the Year’ Noms are Out—and the Winner Is Up to You
Tonja Renée Stidhum
(L-R): Beyoncé performs during 2018 Coachella on April 14, 2018 in Indio, Ca.; Chadwick Boseman attends the AG Awards on January 27, 2019 in Los Angeles, Ca.; Ryan Coogler attends the AAFCA Awards on February 6, 2019 in Los Angeles, Ca.; Regina King attends the Oscars Nominees Luncheon on February 4, 2019 in Beverly Hills, Ca.; LeBron James plays the Brooklyn Nets on December 18, 2018 in New York City.Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images for Coachella), Jon Kopaloff (Getty Images), Rich Fury (Getty Images), Jon Kopaloff (Getty Images), Al Bello (Getty Images)
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) annual celebration of black excellence, otherwise known as The Image Awards, is coming soon and they just dropped their nominees for Entertainer of the Year.
And, whew chillay, the nominee list is filled with heavyweights. Talk about a tough choice.
The nominees are: Beyoncé, Chadwick Boseman, Ryan Coogler, Regina King, and LeBron James. And unlike most esteemed awards ceremonies, you don’t have to be a member of an exclusive academy to have a say in this. This category is open to the public.
So, to help you (and me) pick the ultimate winner, let’s break down some of the big boss shit each nominee has accomplished in the past year.
She existed as Beyoncé. Fin. Okay, okay, okay … details. Right. There was the time she reinvented Coachella—now lovingly referred to as “Beychella”—as an HBCU homecoming halftime show, while donating scholarships to said HBCUs. Or when she dropped a duo album with husband Jay-Z called Everything Is Love—and helped the Louvre break visitor records after filming their “Apeshit” video there. Then, ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde went on the run once again. We can’t forget that she was the real star of Jay’s gorgeous-ass music video for “Family Feud,” directed by Ava DuVernay.
And though the actual film will be released in 2019, Beyoncé’s name rumbled around the world when The Lion King teaser trailer dropped, despite her character (Nala) not appearing once. The wait and anticipation are real, though.
First of all, he single-handedly put our tired minds at ease every time he decided to do the “Wakanda Forever” salute every time you motherfuckers asked him to. He should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for that alone. Okay, yes, some of the salutes ended up being halfhearted, but his arms are tired!
Is he Jax from Mortal Kombat?! No. Don’t take him for granted. He also did real work by joining the challenge to buy-out theaters for underprivileged youth to witness the marvel by Marvel Studios. The man formerly known as the biopic king is now primarily known as T’Challa … forever. Yes, forever, even though we saw him fade away into the “don’t feel so good” dust in Avengers: Infinity War. I still vividly remember the pained yelp that emitted from the audience when this happened during a screening. T’Challa is beloved.
Since we’re on that Black Panther energy, all hail the helmer. Hell, let’s just give the award to Black Panther as an entity and a motherfucking crew. But, seriously, Coogler’s shine this past year is insane, boasting the highest grossing film with a black director and the ninth highest grossing film of all time. He also officially signed the deal to direct the highly successful film’s sequel in 2018, and was also named runner-up for TIME’s Person of the Year.
2018 also saw the fifth year of Coogler’s #BlackoutBlackFriday campaign, under his Blackout for Human Rights collective. Plus, his refusal to assimilate to anything despite his now A-List status is something to respect. He’s just him. And it’s black as fuck. And you will deal.
King’s inclusion in this category is one of those “longtime coming” things, for real. The veteran actress has been far too underrated in past years, and her blossoming in 2018 only highlighted that. We all beamed as we witnessed the genuine surprise awash over her face at the 2018 Primetime Emmys when she won for Netflix’s now-canceled series, Seven Seconds. Her stunning performance in If Beale Street Could Talk has the industry buzzing about her being a Supporting Actress frontrunner this awards season (she copped the Golden Globe already), most recently nabbing an Oscar nomination.
Plus, she gives back to the youth, choosing the I Have A Dream Foundation – Los Angeles as her charity of choice at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon, where she was honored. Regina been King.
The man who sits on the throne in the kingdom of The Three Billy GOATs Gruff. The most obvious moment in 2018 that sticks out was his famous pivot to the Los Angeles Lakers, but he also opened a whole-ass school for kids in his native Ohio, and championed young black female designers last year by recruiting them to collaborate on the design of his first female sneaker for Nike.
In addition to rocking that purple and gold, James is making a mark in the Hollywood industry with various projects, including The Shop. Plus, if we’re talking entertainment, what’s more entertaining than his incredulous reaction to JR Smith’s fuckery during Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals?
Cast your vote at NAACPImageAwards.net. You can vote once every 24 hours until March 4, 2019. And for those of you wondering, the rest of the nominees for the awards ceremony will be announced soon.
The 50th NAACP Image Awards will air live on TVOne, Saturday, March 30, 2019.
Marshall has been screening in events like this one all over the country. He’s a newspaper account of one of them:
Athens Black History Month Film Festival hosts screening of ‘Marshall’ and discussions
• Shania Shelton | Contributor
• Feb 11, 2019 Updated 16 hrs ago
The Morton Theatre held a showing of the film “Marshall” for the Athens Black History Month Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 10. (Photo/Christopher Carson)
Athens Black History Month Film Festival featured a story of struggle on Sunday night.
Attendees watched the film “Marshall,” about the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, facing one of his most difficult trials in the 1940s. The film sparked conversations about black history and prison sentencing.
As attendees entered Morton Theatre’s dimly lit room with low soul music playing in the background, they greeted each other with hugs and smiles.
Before the film, several music videos from across the world were presented.
Lesley Feracho, associate director of the Institute for African American Studies, introduced the music videos with a feeling of pride. She discussed each video’s significance to black history and how the video captures the culture, hardships and pride black people experience around the world.
“I think it’s important to come out and support the events,” Athens resident Catherine Avery said. “I think our history is important, and if we don’t come out and support the events, they won’t be offered.”
Following the “Marshall” screening, a discussion session brought up the unfair treatment of black people in the 1940s and how the legal system at the time emphasized that treatment. Attendees shared both laughs and groans at certain scenes.
The Morton Theatre featured the 2017 film “Marshall,” which told the life story of a young Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court Judge.
Courtesy Barry Wetcher
Christopher Ward, deputy chief judge of the Municipal Court of Atlanta, led the discussion and question and answer session. Attendees discussed mass incarceration, prison reform, education, law practice and black history.
As topics expanded, the conversation shifted to how prison sentencing affects black youth in Athens. An audience member expressed concern about why black youth often agree to plea deals even when they know they aren’t guilty.
Ward explained the importance of educating others about the justice system and prison sentencing. He emphasized the importance of knowing one’s rights.
“If you look at 1956 to today’s date and all the accomplishments in that time, of all the limitations that are still placed on minorities, this country would be in a far better place, if we could learn just how to treat people right,” Ward said.
Last year, “Get On Up,” about funk singer James Brown, was the featured film.
“I come to the Morton every time they have something because I enjoy it,” Athens resident Margie Glenn said. “I’m excited, and I think it’s important for black and white, regardless of what race.”
1. “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison
“If you only read one book”….let it be this one. The imagery is breathtaking. The metaphors….The unnamed protagonist of this classic can’t really fairly be called an “action hero” but his showdown with Ras the Destroyer at the finale of the book must be considered one of the great “set pieces” in literature. If you’ve never read it, it’s a must read. If you have, can’t hurt to read it again. I always feel smarter when I do.
2. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” Malcolm X and Alex Haley
I don’t know what the young kids are into today, but there was a time that this was the one book every black man read. Just on storytelling merits alone, it’s as good as the New Testament.
3. “Standing at the Scratch Line,” Guy Johnson
This is without a doubt the most kick ass book about ass kicking in the pantheon of black literature. It’s like an incredibly well written blaxploitation movie. In fact, there’s so much foot-to-ass action in this book you get tired, like you were the one opening all those cans of whup ass. And the nice thing about it is there’s a sequel, so when you start jonesin’ for more, it’s there for you.
4. “Mumbo Jumbo,” Ismael Reed
If you’re a George Clinton fan, this is the literary equivalent of P.Funk. It’s a Romare Bearden painting in prose. It’s about a voodoo detective and a beat so funky it might take over the world. What more can I say?
5. “Wild Seed,” Octavia Butler
A genius science fiction novel about slavery and mastery and love and power.
6. “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell
An invaluable book about how to get good at things.
7. “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander
A brilliant document that explains why black people can’t get ahead, despite our best efforts.
8. “The Death of Rhythm and Blues,” Nelson George
A crucial piece about our cultural colonization.
9. “Soul City,” Touré
A playful collection of short stories that play with black cultural archetypes.
10. “Faces at the Bottom of the Well: the Permanence of Racism,” Derrick Bell
Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell teaches legal concepts using science fiction fables.
11. “Nat Turner” Kyle Barker
One of the greatest cartoonists tells the powerful story of a legendary slave revolt.