The 2002 Oscars was one for the history books as three black actors–Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Sidney Poitier–were awarded golden statuettes. Denzel walked away with his first Best Actor win for the uber-gritty crime drama “Training Day” directed by music director turned filmmaker Antoine Fuqua. You would think studio executives would be lining up to snatch up the talented director, but Hollywood played deaf, dumb and blind as Fuqua quietly built up his directing credits with various projects like “Tears of The Sun”, “King Arthur” and “Brooklyn’s Finest.”
With “Olympus Has Fallen” Fuqua is stepping into new territory- the big budget action genre. Best described as “Die Hard in The White House”, Gerard Butler plays Secret Service Agent Mike Banning who must work against the clock to rescue the President (Aaron Eckhart) when he’s kidnapped by terrorists who attack the White House. Angela Bassett plays Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs and Morgan Freeman is the Speaker of The House.
The Urban Daily caught up with Fuqua to discuss his new partnership with Weinstein Films, future projects with Denzel Washington, and why a”Black Panther” shouldn’t be so hard to imagine.
TUD: It was recently announced that The Weinstein Company optioned “Southpaw.” Can you tell us how that came about?
ANTOINE FUQUA: That was a project I was working on with Steven Spielberg over at Dreamworks. Eminem was supposed to play the lead role, and then it got put on hold because Em had to work on some music. Harvey Weinstein wanted the project and spoke to Steven and went and got it. Eminem will still be involved in the project, but probably not as the lead.
Back in 2010, you collaborated with Wesley Snipes on a comic book series, “After Dark.” Any plans to bring that to the big screen?
We actually just finished on the script, and we’re waiting for Wesley to be released so we can move forward on this.
Speaking of comic book adaptations, the movie market has been flooded with lots of Marvel franchises, but no black superheroes. Last summer at Comic-Con, Louis D’Esposito of Marvel Studios said that making a Black Panther movie would be challenging because it’s more difficult creating the fictional world of Wakanda on screen. What are your thoughts on D’Esposito’s comments?
It can’t be that difficult, I mean look at “Avatar.” I mean what else can you say to that? We make movies all the time in outer worlds, so no I don’t agree with that statement.
Would you be interested in directing the Black Panther movie? And who would you cast as T’Challa/BlackPanther?
With the right script, absolutely! As for casting, I’d always go straight for Denzel, if you’re talking about a certain type of character. Jamie Foxx, Wesley Snipes, Will Smith — we’ve got a handful of guys who are very powerful actors. We also have lots of talented African-American actors we’ve never even heard of.
Denzel won his first Lead Actor Oscar with “Training Day.” Any plans for you and Denzel to work together again?
We’ve talked about a few things here and there. We want to find that right thing, something really special.
You got your start in the business directing music videos for artists like Prince and Stevie Wonder. Last year you worked with Lil Wayne for the “Mirror” video–what was that experience like?
I really liked Lil Wayne a lot, I think he’s really talented. What I loved about him is that he was totally professional. I would give him some direction and he’d say “I got it.” He had an actor’s way about him– he was very serious. He came on set and asked me what I thought. It was similar to some of the great actors I’ve gotten to work with, that have an instinct about them. The things he does in the video like shaking hair or gritting his teeth, you think that’s Lil Wayne being Lil Wayne , but he’s a really cool cat. I told him he should really look into doing some acting.
WATCH: LIL Wayne “Mirror”
Are there any other artists you’d like to do music videos with?
I think Alicia Keys is really talented. Frank Ocean is interesting and of course Eminem.
You’ve been married to actress Lela Rochon for over 20 years. As a director, do you feel that having a wife who’s also in the business makes it easier? That they understand your workload and time constraints?
I can only speak for the two of us, but yes it helps, definitely.
What has been the key to having such a long lasting marriage in Hollywood?
I’d have to say love and commitment. It’s a crazy business and people do crazy things.
“Olympus Has Fallen” opens nationwide March 22nd.