Exclusive: John Singleton Talks Abduction
EXCLUSIVE: Director John Singleton Talks ‘Abduction’ and Taylor Lautner
By Wilson Morales
April 14, 2011
With the recent release to the trailer of Lionsgate’s upcoming film, ‘Abduction,’ which stars Taylor Lautner (of the ‘Twilight’ franchise), Blackfilm.com had an exclusive interview with the film’s director, John Singleton.
The thriller is centered around a young man (played by Lautner), who after seeing his baby picture on a missing children’s website sets out to uncover the truth about his life.
Also cast in the film are Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver, Maria Bello, Denzel Whitaker, Antonique Smith and Jason Isaacs.
For Singleton, it marks his return to the director’s chair since 2005’s ‘Four Brothers.’ Over the last six years, the Los Angeles native has helped produced some independent films such as ‘Hustle and Flow,’ ‘Black Snake Moan,’ and ‘Illegal Tender.’ He most recently helmed the documentary ‘Marion Jones: Press Pause’ for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Singleton talks about working with Lautner, shooting the film in Pittsburgh, and the state of Black films today.
It’s been a couple of years since you directed your last film. How does it feel to get back in the chair?
John Singleton: It was cool. I love doing it. I love shooting and I love directing pictures more than anything. That’s what I was born to do. And this project came along at a great time. Taylor (Lautner) is a great kid. He’s like one of those chaps that’s going to be around for a long time. For me it was just really an opportunity to show what I would do with someone who was really young and established and very popular. You know what I mean? For me to say it’s for them. Other people could have done this movie. But what would John Singleton do with Taylor Lautner? That’s what makes it exciting. Like, wow. He does not come off in this movie like Jacob or any other thing you’ve ever seen him do. He grew up last summer during the making of this picture.
It’s Taylor’s first lead role (outside of the ‘Twilight’ films) and a chance to show some range.
JS: It’s Taylor’s chance to really flex. The excitement about this is everyone loves this kid! But they don’t really know what he’s totally capable of doing. They don’t know he was a martial arts champion at the age of eleven. And that he’s physical. And that he’s actually funny. And that he’s charismatic and I was thinking they could see the potential in the ‘Twilight’ pictures then this is just like just letting it loose.
What did you do differently that would make him grow as an actor.
JS: What I did was really just brought him into my circle and have him really relax. We just watched movies together and talked about acting and I wanted him to see how there are people in the past that have been in the position that he’s like James Dean and Tom Cruise and young actors who evolved into young adulthood and the decisions that they make. And then we start just talking about the character. And he relaxed enough to improv for the first time. No one ever asked him to do these things. What’s amazing is that everyone doesn’t see how brilliant he is at his age at just picking up stuff. He’ll come and say, ‘I want to try something.’ And he never had a chance to do that. People just wanted him to look good. They didn’t want him to flex and do different stuff.
Lionsgate has filmed a few films set in Pittsburgh like ‘My Bloody Valentine 3-D,’ ‘Next Three Days’ and the upcoming ‘Warrior.’ How was shooting there for this movie?
JS: It was great. It was awesome. I got a chance to go to the Steelers and Pirates games. That’s all I did. I went to the Steelers’ openers and a lot of Pirates games and stuff. We shot a huge sequence during the baseball game. That was the first time I ever done that, with almost 30,000 spectators there. So I had six, seven cameras, three units, and jumping from one side of the fence into the next with Taylor doing the action while trying to make sure people weren’t taking pictures of us. Every day on the set there’s at least five, six hundred girls way off that were trying to hide out of the shot. And Taylor goes, ‘Shh, no. Be quiet, we’re trying to do this.’ The cool thing about him is pretty much every day or every other day when we shot new scenes he’d go out after work, after working all those hours. And he’d go shake everybody’s hand and take pictures and everything. I told him one time, ‘That’s what it takes.’ I also said to him, ‘You probably don’t even know who Jackie Wilson but you know who Michael Jackson was. My parents looked up to Jackie Wilson because Jackie Wilson had a theory. He would go and shake hands with everybody, take pictures with everybody regardless of who they were. And that’s what he became famous and sustained as long as he did.’ And Taylor did that.
In looking at the trailer there’s a little bit of ‘Bourne’ in this movie. With ‘Salt,’ ‘Unknown,’ and ‘Hanna,’ we’re getting a trend of that type of film. How much or little of ‘Bourne’ is in this movie.
JS: The only thing that’s in this film and in ‘Bourne’ is an espionage element. This is more like, maybe kind of like dangerous. He’s in high school not really knowing who he is. He’s forced into a life and death situation. In the ‘Bourne’ pictures that guy was a trained killer. This guy is just a high school kid who has had a little bit of physical training. But he’s up against people who are trained killers. So there’s a lot of jeopardy there.
What kept you from saying yes to the other films that you may have been offered before taking on this project?
JS: Because a lot of stuff was really corny. And then at the moment I may have thought, ‘Yeah’. I was working on ‘the A-Team’ at one time. And I decided not to do that picture because they were trying to make a foreign movie. So there was a lot of different big movies that I was a part of that went down.
This year represents a milestone for a number of your projects. Twenty years ago you did ‘Boyz n the Hood’ and ten years ago you did ‘Baby Boy.’ Including ‘Abduction’ there’s always has a cast of newcomers on the scene.
JS: Yeah, of course. I’ve always believed that I’m the guy that new people go through.
There’s been so much talk made over the last few months in terms of the lack of black films and the lack of quality projects. What’s your opinion as far as how do we get more films out in theaters? Even twenty years ago, 1991, we had more than ten black films released and yet this year we’re so far talking less than five. At least up to now.
JS: Well, the only person that Hollywood has a notion to make a black film right now is my friend Tyler Perry. And more power to him. Tyler has done something that we always said- he’s made something real that we always said. Whatever anybody wants to feel and say about Tyler’s movies, he’s sustaining the audience. He’s proving that you can make a picture that a wide African American audience will go see and it will be very profitable. And that’s what I’m most proudest of that he’s done because they can’t say, ‘Oh, these movies don’t make money. There’s no audience.’ Whatever. Hollywood doesn’t really care about Black people – it’s like George Bush. I’m saying the Kanye West quote. Hollywood really doesn’t’ care about the Black audience. They want the Black audience to go see action films and alien movies and romantic comedies with no Black people in them. That whole liberal mentality about, ‘Oh, we need to make a few of these pictures because whatever,’ doesn’t exist anymore.
And Tyler, he’s the only one that makes films that we are seeing.
He’s holding the fort down and everybody else has got to find a way to get over it so that we can make things different.
JS: Exactly. I mean but look, there’s a movie that my friend Salim Akil is going to come out with a movie in May, ‘Jumping the Broom,’ which looks very good. It’s two different families coming together in marriage. That movie is going to be hot. That movie is going to do very well. You know why it’s going to do very well, because of hunger. There’s a hunger out there for different types of films with African American casts. And who knows what’s going to happen when I come back in. When I come back in, I’m going to come back hard.
You certainly will!
Singleton: When I come back in and I’m working with a predominantly Black cast, just watch. That’s why they show the stuff that I do three times a week on not just one channel but three channels. I’m happy. I can do action pictures with a lot of different people in them and I can go back and do my core stuff.
Are you working on anything now?
JS: Right now I’m working on ‘Abduction’. Making it hot. Working on the music and the sound effects, and we’re just dotting the I’s and T’s and getting it ready because it’s going to be a blockbuster. And you know me. It ain’t just about the hype. You saw the trailer. It’s great. It’s very good. It’s a good experience. It’s been a great experience working with this cast and we’ve got Sigourney Weaver in the movie, too. Yeah. And Jason Isaacs and Maria Bello. They play his parents. There’s a scene that Jason Isaac is in with Taylor that people are just going to be like- all the little girls are going to go, ‘Woo.’
Do you know if Lionsgate is going to take this to Comic-Con in San Diego?
JS: We may. We may come to Comic-Con. It depends. Comic-Con isn’t what it used to be. It’s not just a comic book film. This movie could have been a graphic novel before it became a film. You know there’s the spy element and the action and the intrigue and stuff. It’s an edgy movie. It’s edgy to see Taylor like this, being this confused guy that has all the strength that could probably snap somebody’s neck. But at the same time he’s like the sensitive guy with the girl he likes. Chicks love that.
Could there be sequels with this film if successful?
JS: I always believe if you make the best movie possible then people will discover it in a good way. It’s not like we made something that’s got to be oversold. And people love Taylor but they’re going to be very surprised in a good way at what he does in the movie. Like, wow. And if the movie is successful enough they’re going to see some other adventures with this character.