While Hollywood continues to scratch their heads about the opening weekend success of “The Best Man Holiday,” director Malcolm D. Lee is taking it in stride. After all, it took him 15 years to get a sequel made after his first film “The Best Man” became a hit in 1999.
“I knew that I didn’t want to do a sequel right away. Sequels are difficult and sequels aren’t always successful,” Lee told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “I didn’t want to repeat myself as a storyteller or be pigeonholed as a director so I if I was going to revisit these characters, it would be ten years later. It just so happened to be a little bit longer as time goes on and other projects come up and Hollywood decides Black movies don’t make any money. There were some slow times.”
Reviewers have praised “The Best Man Holiday” for allowing the natural growth of its characters something that Lee says the studio was apprehensive about at first. With people already invested in the characters played by Taye Diggs, Monica Calhoun, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, Melissa de Sousa, Terrence Howard, Regina Hall, Morris Chestnut and Harold Perrineau, they were concerned that the sequel might leave the audience behind. Fortunately, Lee retained his vision and the movie that was released is the one he wanted to make.
“The studio was a little reluctant to do this version of the movie because it was such a departure from the first one. But the characters needed to grow and we needed to do some things that were a little more sophisticated and complex.” There is already talk of a “Best Man 3” which Lee says the studio was willing to consider even before the release of “Best Man Holiday.”
Although the $30 million opening weekend indicates a hit, Lee says the crossover audience hasn’t quite found the movie yet. USA Today caught the Black Twitter backlash after referring to the film as “race-themed” which unlike “12 Years a Slave” it is not. It’s about what happens when people grow up; something that any audience can relate to. Viewers laughed and cried as the movie dealt with themes of love, loss, heartbreak, family and finances.
“It’s about time that we all get to feel something and express sadness and joy,” Lee says.”There’s no need to keep things bottled up. When I was writing and creating it and when I was on set with the actors, I was feeling what they felt and I was feeling what the audience would probably feel, absolutely. These are real emotions that are heartfelt and we can feel it in our soul at times.”
The eventual success of many films is judged by their international appeal. Black movies have long been viewed as not appealing to an overseas audience. But Lee says that’s easily overcome with some hardcore promotion.
“That just takes time and effort to really push it. Will Smith became an international star not because he laid back and counted his dollars. He went over to India, Japan and China and went on the talk shows and got to know people. He really worked himself. It has to be a concerted effort by the studio by the actors to let people know that we’re there and that we have a story worth telling.”
(Photo: PR Photos)