Jean Claude La Marre On Why He Made A Sequel To Gang Of Roses
January 19, 2012
Opening in limited theaters tomorrow (Jan.20) is ‘Gang of Roses 2: The Next Generation,’ the sequel to the 2003 western action film that starred Monica Calhoun, Lil’ Kim, Lisa Raye, Charity Hill, Bobby Brown, and Stacy Dash.
Written and directed by Jean Claude La Marre, who helmed the first film, the sequel brings in a new crop of talent that includes Eurika Pratts, Teyana Taylor, Kellita Smith, Wiz Khalifa, Amber Rose, Rocsi Diaz, Gabriel Casseus, Claudia Jordan, and Charli Baltimore.
Cassie (played by Charli Baltimore), the last remaining member of the original Gang of Roses, is sitting in a small Mexican jail holding the written code to a US military safe. It s here that she meets Collette (Eurika Pratts), a young gambler looking for her next con. Kate (Rocsi Diaz) attempts to break her out, and Cassie is killed. Upon their return, Kate and Collette meet up with outlaws Candi (Teyana Taylor) and Mimi (Claudia Jordan). After some lengthy planning, the four women head to the Mexican town of San Juevo and prepare for the robbery, which will take place in the town church. But unbeknownst to them, they are being followed by Lee (Gabriel Casseus) and his posse of bandits, looking to ambush the women before they can make their big score.
For La Marre, the film represents his first big marketed release since 2006’s ‘Color of the Cross,’ in which he wrote, directed and acted in the film as a black Jesus Christ. Besides Tyler Perry, La Marre has directed more films in recent years than any other black director.
While some of those films may not have received theatrical release or marketed on a heavy level platform when they came out on home video, La Marre continues to make films regardless if they are in the spotlight or not. At a time when other producers and actors can’t find the funds or venue to release films, La Marre is making it happen in one form or another.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, La Marre, along with his producer Eurika Pratts, who also acts in the film, spoke about the making of the sequel and why La Marre has been able to stay under the spotlight when making films.
It’s been nearly 10 years since you directed ‘Gang of Roses,’ so why make a sequel at this late date?
Jean Claude La Marre: Upon the release of the original film, we were presently surprised at the popularity of the film. We moved about 250,000 units in the first two months of its DVD release. At the time, we had a fairly robust DVD market. Subsequently we sold the film to BET in its first TV window and it because a huge ratings smash for them. So much so, they re-licensed the film once their TV window expired. TVOne then purchased the next window, and again the ratings were huge for them. It became evident that if all the elements were aligned and everything worked out, it would be a good business and a good creative decision to move forward with a sequel. We were looking for folks who were popular and known in the hip hop community. We got the cast we got and were able to secure financing and did a sequel.
Eurika, how did you become a part of the film as a producer and actress?
Eurika Pratts: I had been working with Jean Claude’s company and producing for some time and when he brought the idea of ‘Gang of Roses 2,’ it was something I couldn’t pass up. I had been a fan of the first film for a long time and well before I even started working with the company. I started off acting so it was the perfect project to be a part of.
Most of the cast are not known for their acting experience. Was that going to be a challenge for you?
Jean Claude La Marre: Not really. In the original film, we had a couple of folks who were popular in the hip hop culture but weren’t thespians per se if you are thinking about Bobby Brown and ‘Lil Kim. Although she had done a few films prior to ‘Gang of Roses,’ LisaRaye was also part of the cast and she was not known for her acting chops. That wasn’t a major concern or challenge to putting this film together. As a film director with a limited budget and limited time, you obviously want people to deliver the lines convincingly and take direction. Most people, whether they are musicians or actors, can take direction well.
Was there any thought to bringing back any of the actors from the first film in this sequel?
Jean Claude La Marre: I had originally thought about bringing back LisaRaye and at first she had agreed to come back. Towards the latter part of the process, I was looking at other actresses. Vivica A. Fox, who I have worked with in the past, was one of them. Then I realized that I wanted to do a complete reboot of the franchise and do something different and a little more original.
Do you think folks want to see a black western film? We haven’t had one in theaters in a long time, and seldom do we get those films made at all.
Jean Claude La Marre: I think any genre works if you cast if you cast it right. At the end of the day, we are starved for product as a community. African Americans make up a disproportional amount of the viewing audience. We are not really given adequate amount of product to consume, so we’ll take in what’s available. That’s a fact. As a filmmaker, I like to do things that challenge me. I think the African American audience has grown beyond the urban tragedy, or the slapstick comedy. We are more a diverse audience and we are a lot smarter than Hollywood gives us credit for. An urban western is no longer a novelty item. It’s part of and should be part of the movie going experience for the African American audience.
What role do you play in the film?
Eurika Pratts: I play a character named Collette, who’s a gambler and she’s put in a cell with an old gang member. That gang member has a code that all the girls are looking for and in the process of getting the code, I become a part of this gang and they begin to trust me. I make my way in there and become part of this sisterhood. It was a lot of fun to shoot. We worked in the summertime and we shot in the desert area where it was really hot. The girls were a lot of fun. Amber, Teyana, Kellita were a pleasure to work and so was everyone else. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Besides Tyler Perry, you are the only black director who has made films recently than others. At a time, when producers and directors can’t get the funding or films off the ground, how are you making it possible?
Jean Claude La Marre: I started out as an actor in this business and realized very early on that being famous was not a craving or intent desire of mine. The limelight for me has its pluses but certainly more minuses. I sort of developed my directorial career in the same fashion. I like being under the radar and being low-key. If you google my name, you won’t find that many photos of me unless they are on-set photos. I don’t do the red carpet scene. That stuff doesn’t entice me. I make movies for a specific audience. That’s the dialogue that I appreciate. I like walking through the mall and hearing black women talk about the film or characters. For me, that’s what is important. Being on 30,000 billboards across the country is not my goal. A studio executive recently told me that he was thinking of me while he was talking to Ron Howard and realized that I have done more films than he did. He asked me what’s end game, and I told him that I don’t speak in those terms. I don’t have one. I’m engage in a dialogue with my audience and it’s an ongoing one. It’s making movies that are a little more sophisticated than what’s being given and a little different. I offer them an opportunity to get them the same kind of product their white counterparts would get even though it’s not as largely marketed or hyped. I’m still excited about waking up and making another movie. I have an all-female superhero film I’m developing. I’m going to shoot that film. I’m not going to studios and ask them for financing or if they can help me develop it for seven years and see if I can cast someone like Scarlett Johansson. I’m not interested in that. I just want to make movies for my audience.
How much fun did you have on the set?
Jean Claude La Marre: I have fun on every movie I’m involved with. That’s part of the reason I like shooting movies. I get to work with actors and other talent and finally see the project come to fruition. That’s exciting.
What do you enjoy doing more, acting or producing?
Eurika Pratts: If I had to choose, I would say acting. Playing a character in this film was different from the other films I have done. I got to be in full character with the wardrobe and makeup. It’s a lot of fun. It helps me discover other types of my personality that I didn’t know I had.
When and where is ‘Gang of Roses 2: The Next Generation” going to be shown?
Jean Claude La Marre: It will open up on Jan.20 in LA, and then do its DVD premiere and VOD on February 14th. We’re currently negotiating our television deal now.