Black Dynamite's Michael Jai White and Scott Sanders: The Movieline Interview
Was it a genre both of you were fond of while growing up and as you got into movies?
MJW: Yeah. The first movie I ever saw was a blaxploitation movie. It was called Monkey Hustle. Like I said, just listen to the name. That's a blaxploitation movie. I had these incredible, bigger-than-life images of people who looked like I did. Or who looked like I wanted to look like. Jim Brown, Fred Williamson -- all these bad-ass dudes who were super-cool.
SS: And they knew kung-fu.
MJW: And Shaft. Look how cool he was. Shaft was written for a white guy, and they decided to use a black guy at the last minute because of Sweet Sweetback's Baaadasss Song. "That was successful; let's try it with this." They wanted to see how universal it was.
Did you talk to any of those actors when you were approaching this? What did you think their sense of their legacy was?
MJW: They're really embracing it. I based most of my character on Jim Brown; he's almost like another dad to me. We were actually supposed to shoot the pimp scene in Jim Brown's house, but the location didn't work out. Once we were done with the film, I took a DVD copy and watched it with Jim, just he and I in his house. And he really enjoyed it. That was a wonderful moment for me.
SS: And last night [at the NYC premiere], the man who started it all, Melvin Van Peebles, was there. He seemed to really like it; we talked about it. It's kind of an incredible thing to create a genre of film that's revered. It's leaked so much into our culture. We were on a hip-hop site showing the Black Dynamite trailer, and this guy commented, "What does this have to do with hip-hop?" And this other guy wrote, "You're kidding, right?" It's like, where does Biggie Smalls come from? He comes from Uptown Saturday Night! The whole culture is influenced by blaxploitation.
We live in such an ironic age, though. Can you foresee urban stuff that's being made today recognized as a type of blaxploitation cinema 25 years from now?
SS: Absolutely. In some ways, I think it's all OK. If someone wants to exploit a certain element of our culture, they can do it. I think that romantic comedies are some of the most exploitative movies. They're exploiting a certain sense of rules that maybe don't have anything to do with real life. As time goes by, people will look at those movies and say, "Those are just movies. They have no connection to me." And we can riff on them the same way. A friend of mine directed Down With Love, which is a riff on Pillow Talk and those kinds of movies.
Without giving anything away, was the archnemesis at the end of Black Dynamite the one you guys had in mind from the very start?
MJW: Yeah. In a lot of these movies, there's a certain checklist that you go through. One is that in maybe 95 percent of these movies, they always talk about corruption going "all the way to the top."
SS: That's just movies in general. "Corruption goes alllll the wayyy to the top!"
MJW: So we dared to have corruption actually go all the way to the top. I was going to reality plus 10 every time. That's just part of the thing. In the '70s, it was always about distrust of government. That's where it really began. And this guy nailed the coffin shut. "All the way to the top!"
SS: We're like, "What's the 'top'?" And then it just hit us.
So... Black Dynamite 2? 3? Son of Black Dynamite?
SS: If people want it, we'll have it. If we do really well, we want to do more. We have a cartoon coming out on Adult Swim already. Carl Jones from The Boondocks is going to produce. He's hilarious.
SS: That's in the early stages -- not developed enough to where we can talk about it. The cartoon's in a place we can talk about.
Pages: 1 2