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March 2007
SHOOTER: An Interview with Director Antoine Fuqua

SHOOTER: An Interview with Director Antoine Fuqua
By Ife Thomas

Antoine Fuqua has established himself as one of the foremost industry talents of his generation, confirming his place as a director with unique vision and stylized craft with such films as The Replacement Killers, Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, and the academy award winning Training Day, starring Denzel Washington who’s performance won him an Academy Award for Best Actor. Recently, Fuqua chatted with Blackflim.com about his latest action release, Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Danny Glover.


So are you happy with how this film turned out? In the past you’ve had difficulties with not seeing eye to eye with the studio…

AF: Yeah, I’m happy with the movie, absolutely. As the director, you can always find something…I just finished it Thursday night, and I’m still looking at things that I want to change. But I’m happy with the process that I went through with Paramount, and Mark, and (producer) Lorenzo.

It’s fairly startling towards the end of the movie how you’re in action mode and then it gets very political…unusually so for an action genre film. Was that a fight for you, was it fairly easy or was that always a part of the concept?

AF: It’s the reason I wanted to do this movie outside of working with Mark. For me, if you take an action movie there’s a chance of it being only that and you don’t get a chance to make a statement about anything at all. And when I read the script…I knew we could take it a little further and at least hint around and suggest, and say certain things about our political climate. So it wasn’t a movie that was preachy because the movie wasn’t about that exactly—it’s an action thriller. But, I knew that I had the opportunity to say something.

Do you think that elevates it for audiences? Because it could’ve been just a pure action, fluffy sort of film. So do you think that you’ve elevated the game a little bit now for future action films?

AF: I don’t know if I did or if I didn’t, I wasn’t really thinking about it that way you know? I was really just trying to do my part as a filmmaker. Somehow “the news” doesn’t always report on the news, and film has become an avenue for some of the things that are happening in the world today. When you get an opportunity to say something like they used to do in the 70s…back then they were making movies about Vietnam and about racism and other things. Now we’re in an era where we’re at war again and the country used to be divided, but there’s actually more of a majority of people that don’t approve of our government at the moment. There’s a lot of suspicion about what’s going on with Enron, our Vice President’s ownership in Halliburton and these other companies, and what they actually do. I think that as opportunities arise for any filmmaker to make a movie that can be entertaining and say something then it’s sort of our responsibility to take that opportunity if it’s something you’re interested in. I think it’s a shame if we don’t.

Was that part of the discussions you had with Mark who seems kind of at a crossroads in his career? Maybe eight years ago you would’ve expected him to do an action movie, but now with an Oscar nomination for The Departed he’s obviously branching out. Is there a desire on his part to do more then just an action movie?

AF: Yeah, I think so. Mark’s a smart guy you know? I think it happens with a lot of people in general when you have children. Outside of your career, when you have children, there’s something about a certain responsibility that you start to feel about your world and understanding the world around you, and if you have an opportunity to do your craft and shed some light on it or start some sort of discussion about it, then I think people are more inclined to do that. Not speaking for Mark, but I think that’s where Mark may have been when he read the script and when we talked about some of the politics in the script.

Can you talk a bit more about why Mark works as the lead in this role? What was it like working with him?

AF: Well, he’s a really nice guy and that’s important. I’ve found for myself, with the last few movies, that it’s nice to work with people you like, who are hard workers and really care about the work. Also, he’s perfect for the role because he’s humble, he’s very approachable, and I think that heroes today are not the big guys with muscles on their heads and everything that are like six feet tall, they’re common people. I think they’re the guy next door; they’re your best friend or your boyfriend or whatever. They’re the young guys in Iraq on the USS Truman who I spent time with, who are like 19 to 22 years old that you know and you went to school with them. Those are the real heroes of today, and I think Mark sort of fits that bill perfectly. I think he’s just right for this movie.

Can you talk about your collaboration process with an actor and how that worked on this movie?

AF: I do a book about (gestures) about that thick of a character study just for me, and I sit with actors and talk about what that means, talk about every scene and where they are in every scene. Then I sort of hear them out and make notes on that to make sure we’re all on the same page. That way when I get to the set I can sometimes give a word or two of direction as opposed to a long conversation. For example, Mark, in the beginning of the movie is adolescent really because it’s child behavior; you just don’t pull up, move away from everybody because you’re upset, then move up to the mountains and say, “I’m not gonna talk to anybody anymore.” That’s acting like a child. And for him to burn the tape on the glacier is much more of an adult move, so it shows much more maturity because it’s not about you, it’s about other people that could get hurt. So he had to go from that to that…so there’s things like that I do with actors to discuss all those things and it helps them easily and quickly understand what I want.

Do you know what you’re working on next or are you working now?

AF: I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I got a project that I might do in July that I just recently got the money for called, Without A Badge, about Jerry Speciano (sp?) who was a part of the counter cartel in Columbia. He went so deep under they had to put him a nuthouse because he started to believe he was a smuggler…he’s a sheriff now in Paseo County, CA, and that took place in the late 80s. At this point I just want to get a great script and story—something that I can control a little bit more.

Well what happened with American Gangster? You were attached to that at one point…

AF: Well, a lot of things…a lot of things and some of it my fault and some of it their fault. Like, in retrospect I could’ve handled things a little differently and so could have Universal, but, you know it happens in this business a lot. I was just in a place after doing King Arthur where I didn’t want to hear a whole lot of anything when it came down to a subject that I know really well (like) when you’re talking about that world on the streets and drugs, and what drove a Black man in particular to sell drugs during that era. It’s just a subject that I know really well, and I know Frank Lucas really well personally. I spent hours and days with him and his family, so it was hard for me to compromise on that movie because I knew it so well and the reason Denzel was involved was because of me. So it was hard for them to compromise because the budget we needed at that time…they just didn’t want to spend that money and it’s their money, I understand that, so it just didn’t work out. But, they got Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and Denzel that seems like a formula for success to me so we’ll see…but it kills me though. (laughs) I know it’s gonna be good!

How do you feel about the success of Tyler Perry and the impact that he’s having? Knowing that he came up through the world of plays and now he’s opening more doors for Black directors…

AF: I’m happy for him. I think it’s great for anybody to find their way into this business and have success. I don’t know him personally and I only saw one of the movies, my wife took me to see the first one and I’m happy for him. I don’t know what kind of impact it has on the business. If it makes money it has impact!





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