John Singleton’s 1993 film Poetic Justice has had such a large impact on popular culture that it’s hard to believe the film hit theaters 20 years ago. We still rock Janet Jackson signature box braids and Kendrick Lamar’s radio banger “Poetic Justice,” which samples Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place,” is currently on top of the charts.
Singleton — who is also known for directing films like Boyz n the Hood and Baby Boy — caught up with ESSENCE.com and dished on the highlights of filming with Tupac Shakur, Janet Jackson and Regina King 20 years ago.
Here are a few highlights from that interview:
Janet Jackson’s braids are back on trend. Whose idea was it for her character Justice to sport the braids?
JOHN SINGLETON: That was a collaboration between myself, Janet, [dance choreographer] Fatima Robinson and a dancer named Josie Harris. Josie had the braids in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video, which I directed. I brought her and Fatima and a couple of other dancers over to hang out with Janet and they all became friends. I said, “Why don’t we try and do Janet’s hair like Josie’s hair?” We got the hairstyle from Harlem and just put it in a West Coast movie.
ESSENCE: What was it like having Tupac Shakur around?
SINGLETON: He was so funny. He was always cracking jokes. It’s only later that he got really dark. People always idolize ‘Pac, but he was really just a brilliant yet confused young kid with a lot of fame. He had nothing to ground him, no father. He had no one to tell him “no” or “just sit down.” But when you did tell him something, he’d respect you. Right before he passed we just started talking again. I saw him a week an a half before he went to Las Vegas and I told him I’m working on a new movie [Baby Boy, 2001] and I told him that this will be the movie that will get him an Oscar. He said, “Anything you want I’m there.” He was going to be my Robert DeNiro. We were going to grow together. When you see Baby Boy now, his presence and soul are still in that movie.
ESSENCE: The L.A. riots started at the same time following the Rodney King verdicts. Did it affect filming?
SINGLETON: We kept on filming while the riots broke out in April of 1992. We were shooting in Simi Valley, California, and I was on my way to set when the verdicts were coming in. I went to set late because I went to the courthouse. I was protesting and everything. When I finally get to set the crew was watching [the coverage] on a small television and some were predicting L.A. was going to burn. And it happened.
ESSENCE: Who do you think would be your modern-day Janet Jackson or Tupac Shakur if you were to do Poetic Justice in 2013?
SINGLETON: I don’t know, maybe Tyrese and Rihanna. I really want to do something with her. I talked to her before and I think she’d be very interesting. She’s young and beautiful and accessible and women like her.
Now, let’s take a trip down memory lane to 7 other amazing films released in 1993.