Archive For The “Profiles” Category
It’s hard to miss Lee Daniels.
Forget the pastel polos, the black rimmed glasses or the Don King-like hair – his personality alone demands attention. As he makes his way toward the table I’m sitting at, jotting down questions, I notice Lee Daniels doesn’t walk. He struts. I notice he doesn’t smile. He gleams.
He exudes the confidence that most first time directors usually hide behind doubt.
But, then again, Lee Daniels is different. And that may be the strongest quality he has. His confidence is the reason everyone within a fifteen foot radius knows Lee Daniels is, well, within a fifteen foot radius.
Although he’s making his directoral debut at the 2nd Anuual Bahamas International Film Festival with his film Shadowboxer, he is nowhere near being a rookie. He produced the Oscar-winning film Monster’s Ball, then followed that success with the critically acclaimed picture The Woodsman.
As Lee Daniels promotes Shadowboxer to whoever will listen, it’s apparent that the hair isn’t the only thing he and Don King have in common. King’s knack for promotion is also there.
“Shadowboxer is my soul,” he emphasizes. “I put my soul into whatever I do. Especially this movie. I put all I could into this.”
His soul wasn’t all he put into the movie. During production, Lee Daniels found himself putting his heart into the movie. Two months ago, the 46-year-old suffered a heart attack at the hands of exhaustion and hard work.
“Directing is… a tsunami,” Daniels laughs. “It’s very humbling. It’s easier to produce, but it’s so much more exciting to direct.”
Despite his success, Daniels’ greatest achievement has nothing to do with the cinema. He’s a proud father, something that makes all of his behind the camera success seem distant.
“That’s my greatest achievement,” Daniels said. “Being a dad.”
As a first time director at a sophomore film festival, Daniels sees positive outlooks for both him and the festival.
“I think the festival is going to grow and grow,” he said. “(Festival founder) Leslie Vanderpool has done a phenomenal job putting groups of people together. I think the future festivals will attract many people.”
As for him?
“I’ve got a couple movies left in me,” Daniels grins, the ultimate magician talking about future tricks up his sleeve. “I’m producing a new film called Tennesse and co-directing another with Lenny Kravitz.”
Despite a late start as a director, Daniels doesn’t take anything for granted. After his near-death experience, Daniels has developed a relationship with God and realizes how fortunate his is, not only to direct, but to still be alive.
“I’ve realized I’m very blessed,” Daniels said. “I’m trying to keep focus in prayer. I’m finding out what happiness is.”
One day, Anthony Mackie will be the one of the greatest actors in Hollywood.
He’ll be swarmed by agents, mobbed by fans and have enough Oscar statues to play chess with. His name will be top billing in box office hits that will attract half the world into the theatre.
But, right now, he’s just an optimistic actor from New Orleans, sitting next to me, gulping a Jack and Coke at the Bahamas International Film Festival.
“In five years I hope I’m blown up,” Mackie laughs, stirring his drink. ”I just want to continue to do diverse and interesting roles. Continue to do one play a year, continue to do three films a year.”
Mackie is evolving into a star, using his on-screen presence to turn ordinary films into extraordinary ones. In his film debut, the smash-hit 8 Mile, Mackie took the role of Eminem’s cross-town rival Papa Doc and made you absolutely hate him. In his two latest films, Spike Lee’s She Hate Me and Rodney Evans’ Brother to Brother, Mackie hasn’t just shown that he can really act, but that he’s one of the most versatile young actors in Hollywood.
“I’m on my way to that,” Mackie tells me, concerning his flexibility as an actor. “Well, like a few more projects and I might get up there. But, now, I wish.”
In Brother to Brother, Mackie plays Terry, a gay teenager who befriends an older black writer at a homeless shelter. The film has received critical acclaim for both the picture itself and Mackie’s too-good-to-be-true performance.
“I did a lot of research for Brother to Brother,” Mackie explains. “Like when (Marlon) Brando did Streetcar, he used to stand outside of strips clubs and watch men come in and out. When I read that, it tripped me out. So when I was doing this film, a friend of mine showed me this gay club and I used to stand outside and watch the men come in and out. I would watch their movements and everything like that. I just applied that to my work and didn’t judge it.”
Mackie’s other latest feature is Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, a politically driven film that deals with everything from whistleblowers to same-sex parenting. In the film, Mackie somehow finds himself in the middle of a moral dilemma as his successful life turns into a whirlwind of confusion. Playing a recently fired, desperate young executive who impregnates women for $10,000 each in one film, and a homeless gay teenager in the other, Mackie discovered similarities between directors Spike Lee and Rodney Evans, which helped him develop each character.
“Well it’s interesting, they just have similar styles of work,” Mackie said, leaning forward. “Rodney had a very specific vision about this film. It was basically him setting the performance on the actors. Where as with Spike, he casts people because of their ability and he works with that to form the character. So, Spike’s more of an actor’s director, where as Rodney’s really a director’s director.”
Mackie’s film resume includes cameos in The Manchurian Candidate, with Denzel Washington, and upcoming films such as Million Dollar Baby, with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, plus The Man with Samuel L. Jackson. He has worked with some of the best actors in the world, enhancing his own technique by observing the work of others.
“I would just hone in on my own working process by watching their process,” he tells me. ”And how to treat people.”
I ask him to explain that.
“When Sam (Jackson) got on the set everybody knew it because he knew everybody’s name. He made sure everybody was upbeat and cool. He was cracking jokes on everybody, cracking jokes with everybody. Everybody was cracking jokes on him. They really taught me, when you get to that level, how to treat people to make them want to come to work.”
For now, Anthony Mackie is cast into roles that either save or make the films, something that helps establish himself as one of the best young actors of Hollywood’s new generation.
When asked how he gets those roles, how he has met these people, he sums up his acting career in three words.
“I’ve been lucky.”
Originally Written For BahamasB2B.com
The most frightening image of The Untold Story of Emmett Till isn’t young Emmett’s mutilated face as he lies in his coffin for the whole world to see. It isn’t Mamie Till Mobley’s reactions at the funeral, being held up by two men as she nearly faints while looking at her son’s lifeless corpse.
The most frightening image of the film is when the murderers, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, smile in the courtroom as they get acquitted of kidnapping and murdering the 14-year-old boy who allegedly whistled at a white woman.
But, thanks to a relentless effort by the film’s director, Keith Beauchamp, the decision in that courtroom won’t stand much longer.
Beauchamp has dedicated nine years of his life to The Untold Story of Emmett Till, which not only received a standing ovation at its screening at the Bahamas International Film Festival, but has reopened the murder case of the 1955 killing of young Emmett Till.
“It was more than just a film,” Beauchamp said during our interview at the Atlantis Coral Towers. “This became a personal journey for myself.”
That personal journey started at the age of 10, when Beauchamp first learned of Emmett Till’s story. Having grown up in racially tense Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Beauchamp experienced racism as a high school senior, when he was beaten by an off-duty police officer for dancing with a white girl at prom.
“I was hands-on with this project because I lived this project,” Beauchamp told me expressively. “This is something that I was willing to die for.”
Having not worked a 9-to-5 in over seven years, Beauchamp has devoted a majority of his adult life working on The Untold Story, becoming sort of a second son to Emmett’s mother, the late Mamie Till Mobley.
“We became very close,” Beauchamp said. “Just knowing her, just speaking with her and just listening to her knowledge and her wisdom, that is what really kept me going.”
Mamie Till Mobley, who passed away last year, had fought for the reopening of the case for 47 years, trying to avenge her son’s brutal murder. That vengeance came when Beauchamp made his documentary, which opened the eyes of the justice system while dropping the jaws of viewers. I ask Keith if he, too, still gets chills when he watches the film.
“Oh yeah, man,” he says shaking his head emphatically. “It’s very unfortunate that Mrs. Mobley passed away, it’s very hurtful for me to see the footage of her.
Everything she had said to me before, I now know what she’s been trying to teach me.
I asked him what he learned.
The film that Beauchamp has persevered in is a 75-minute documentary that follows the events that happen before, during and after the abduction and murder of Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old Chicago native who traveled to Mississippi to visit his uncle. The film, which has no narration or onscreen appearances for Beauchamp, uses the witnesses that were with Till when he was abducted, the reporters who covered the case and, of course, the woman who lost her son.
“I’ve never considered this film to be my film,” Beauchamp said tapping his chest. “I always considered this their film; the witnesses, Mrs. Mobley’s film. I’m just the mouth piece.”
Since starting this documentary, Beauchamp has discovered evidence that proves even the most knowledgeable history books wrong. Beauchamp learned that there were over 14 people involved in the murder, much more than the historian’s story, which includes only two. Beauchamp has found witnesses who didn’t want to be found and possible suspects that desperately tried to clear their name. But, the most significant thing Beauchamp has done was force the re-opening of the nearly 50-year-old case and lit a match underneath the seat of America’s top politicians.
“I made this film to raise the American…” Beauchamp stops and thinks. “Not just the American consciousness, but to raise the conscience of all people about the contributions that were given by African-Americans.”
Now, Beauchamp is getting rewarded for his role in, what he calls, the hip-hop generation’s civil rights movement. He has been talking to plenty of producers and film distributors who are interested in making a feature-length film on his life and his involvement with the Emmett Till project.
“There are so many people we’ve been discussing to play me,” Beauchamp explained. “It was said that Will Smith had interest, same with Jamie Foxx, but I don’t see those people playing me.”
I laugh and say, yes, I could see Will Smith.
“Will Smith?” He too, begins to laugh. “A lot of people said that actually. I don’t know man, it’s up in the air.”
Although Beauchamp’s film has many frightening and horrifying images, it is laced with beauty that will keep a lasting impression on me and every other viewer. The most beautiful image in the film is watching Mamie Till Mobley sit on her couch, next to a baby picture of Emmett, still able to smile her gorgeous smile.
And, after watching all that Keith Beauchamp has done for her son, you know she is smiling down on him now.