Hudlin Entertainment

The Man Who Helped Unchain ‘Django’

Here’s a wonderful article profiling me in the Wall Street Journal.  The Journal did a really important story on me at the beginning of my career before the launch of HOUSE PARTY, so their support means a lot to me.

The Man Who Helped Unchain ‘Django’

By A.D. Pruitt

February 16, 2013

Reginald HudlinReginald Hudlin has been a player in the entertainment world for over 20 years, but on Feb. 24  Hudlin will have his first shot at winning an Oscar as one of the producers for “Django Unchained.”  The Quentin Tarantino-directed film starring Jamie Foxx as a renegade slave turned bounty hunter is nominated for Best Picture, making Hudlin just the fourth African- American producer to receive such a nod.

Hudlin, former president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television, is a prolific writer, director and producer for TV and film with much of his creative work touching on African-American-themed projects.  He is best known for his debut film “House Party” that starred hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play and directing such hits as “Boomerang” with Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry.

So, it was little surprise that Tarantino picked Hudlin’s brain more than a decade ago about how to make a movie about American slavery.   “We were having a long conversation about slave movies and I stated my opinion that most of them don’t work because they’re more focused on victimology,” said Hudlin in a phone interview with The Wall Street Journal.  “I wanted to see people who fought back; the equivalent of Spartacus in an Antebellum context.”

Hudlin said he had forgotten about that conversation until Tarantino called him up with a script and said “look you planted the seed and this is the tree.”

Not everyone, however, appreciates what “Django” has grown into.  While the film’s  has had critical and commercial success, it has also sparked fierce criticism from black intellectuals and artists including film director Spike Lee who told “Vibe” magazine he wouldn’t see the movie because “it’s disrespectful to my ancestors.” As the sole black producer on Django, Hudlin shares his views about the criticism, the state of black Hollywood and if a “Django” sequel is in the works.

Jamie Foxx, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained.”How did Tarantino bring on you as a producer?

He called (me) over the house handed me the script. I told him how much I loved it and he asked me if I had any notes. I shared with him my thoughts…and then I wished him good luck. Then he said…we need to do this one together. We had never worked together before, but it was an exciting prospect. I knew this was an important movie. So, three days later we’re meeting with studios. A week after that, we’re scouting locations in Louisiana.

When you read the script did you think this was going to be a land mine for criticism particularly with the violence and the use of the “N-word”?

I thought that the movie was powerful. Of course, it was going to be controversial.  There’s so few stories made about black people that each film takes on an inordinate amount of importance …particularly in this period of our history.

Black people have not come to terms with how to deal with this most painful part of our past. You look at the Jewish community….they take the Holocaust, the most painful part of their heritage [and] their attitude is: we will never forget and we will take strength from this, we would never let the world forget. The black community has not come to that same kind of consensus.

How do you think this film changes the conversation?

First of all, there is a conversation. There weren’t people sitting around talking about slavery a year ago. People were talking about “Basketball Wives.” The very fact that people are talking about slavery, depictions of our history, researching different real life characters…is for the good.

Were you surprised by the acclaim “Django” has received?

I always felt very confident [with] the material. It was a great script, Quentin is a great director. We had a dream cast. Every day on the set, magic happened.

“Django” has been characterized as a Spaghetti Western. I thought it was also made in the spirit of the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s.

The phrase blaxploitation film is an unfortunate slur that has stuck on that period of movies. I think what defines those films are strong Black people who stand up for what they believe in and fight back. The fact we’ve never had as many images of strong black men and women since that period is criminal.

Tell me about your comic book series based on the characters from “Django.”

It’s really exciting because it’s based on the original script. We’re not just drawing the movie, we’re including all these scenes which may have been shot, but cut or maybe never shot at all. And the artist who’s drawing the books hasn’t seen the film yet. He’s doing his own version of the characters which sometimes look very different from the actors we cast.

Do you foresee a “Django” sequel?

I promised Quentin I would not harass him about a sequel for another six months. I know that Quentin has never done a sequel and it’s sort of torturous because he has fantastic ideas for sequels for almost all of his films. I have to presume there will not be a sequel, but I don’t have to accept it.

What do you think about the state of black Hollywood now?

The fact is things are much better. There are black actors in many more TV shows and movies than ever before. You can’t say there isn’t improvement in terms of more opportunity. I think what people continue to be frustrated about is the range of representation.

What do you think “Django’s” legacy will be?

Not only is “Django” Quentin’s biggest hit, it’s on its way to being the biggest western of all time. To say the biggest western of all time stars Jamie Foxx is an amazing statement.

Talk about it on HEF – the Hudlin Entertainment Forum