Consider this an extension of my Pondering The Dismal Outlook Of Black Directors Working Within The Studio System piece I posted a few weeks back that got passed around quite a bit, and generated lots of emails. Too bad most of those emails resulted in little to nothing… a few holes filled in here and there; but ultimately little gained.
Moving on… inspired by yesterday's news that Antoine Fuqua's name was announced as potential director for yet another project, I thought I'd take a look at recent project developments for those few *working* directors of African descent within the studio system; for the purposes of this series, *working* means that a film they've directed was released in theaters in the last 3 years, and their name has been attached or at least been considered (and has been made public) for studio directing jobs since that last project.
And since yesterday's news inspired this post, I thought I'd start with, who else, but Antoine Fuqua.
I'd say both he and F. Gary Gray (whom I'll also profile in this series) are 2 black directors-for-hire (we could classify them) whose names have appeared on director candidate short lists most often, in recent years. Fuqua probably has the edge however.
Browsing through this site's archives, going back 3 years to 2009, I counted at least 16 different projects that Fuqua has been "attached to," or been "in talks" or "in negotiations" to direct. Sixteen in 3 years, since this site was born!
And of those 16, only 1 was actually realized, eventually making its way to theaters – Brooklyn's Finest.
So that leaves 15 (or more) projects in limbo, or that he's no longer attached to direct.
Let's take a look at the list, starting with the earliest, accompanied by the status of each, based on the information I have:
– Fall 2009: The suspense thriller Prisoners, with Hugh Jackman possibly in the lead. The script was considered a hot commodity, and was named one of the best unproduced scripts of 2009. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg, had all previously been rumored to have been attached to the project. Status? A new director is attached – Denis Villeneuve – with a 2014 release date scheduled.
– Fall 2009: A big-screen adaptation of the graphic novel Miss: Better Living Through Crime, with Spike Lee executive producing, and John Ridley penning the script. Status? Seith Mann took over the project about a year later.
– January 2010: The spy thriller Consent to Kill for CBS Films with Lorenzo DiBonaventura and Nick Wechsler producing. The script, penned by Jonathan Lemkin, was adapted from the 2005 novel of the same name by Vince Flynn. Status? Fuqua is still apparently attached; but no movement on it though.
– May 2010: The Tomb, about a structural security expert who's framed for a crime and put in a high-security prison that he designed. He then has to find a way to escape and hunt down the person who put him behind bars, and seek revenge. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the guy to star back then. Status? Schwarzenneger is still in, as is Sylvester Stallone in the lead however. BUT, Fuqua is out, and Mikael Håfström is in as director, with a 2013 release date planned.
– June 2010: The Tupac Shakur biopic was first announced with Fuqua as director. Status? 2 years later, Fuqua is out, John Singleton has been rumored to be in, but nothing confirmed.
– November 2010: An adaptation of the Red 5 comic Afterburn – a sci-fi adventure set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic earth destroyed by a massive solar flare, leaving what life remains mostly mutated from radiation, as treasure hunters battle for anything of value. Gerard Butler was attached to star. Status? Fuqua was "in talks" so it may never have been his project in the first place. But the project still has an IMDB listing with Butler still as the lead. No director names though.
– May 2011: Signed on to direct a biopic on the life of Yang Guifei, of the legendary Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD), considered one of Four Beauties of ancient China, and imperial consort Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, said to "have a face that puts all flowers to shame." This is/was a non-Hollywood production by the way, financed and produced solely by the Xi’an Qujiang Film & TV Investment Group, with production set to begin in China later this year, for a 2012 release. Status? Fuqua is still onboard. No movement on the project though.
– May 2011: TNT and TBS announced development deal with Fuqua for an hour-long scripted detective series titled The Command, which Antoine Fuqua was listed as the director and executive producer for. The Command would center on an elite squad of hand-picked detectives within the New York City police department called the Borough Command, who are assigned only the toughest, highest-profile and most-unsolvable cases. Status? No movement.
– May 2011: With Darren Aronofsky excusing himself from helming the next Wolverine movie, Fuqua was on 20th Century Fox's short list of directors to replace him. Status? Well he didn't get the gig. James Mangold is currently attached.
– June 2011: The boxing drama starring Eminem, titled Southpaw. Status? It's been put on the backburner for now.
– July 2011: Summit Entertainment and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura made a deal with Fuqua to direct the crime action thriller project Storming Las Vegas, based on the 2008 book Storming Las Vegas: How a Cuban-Born, Soviet-Trained Commando Took Down The Strip to the Tune of Five World Class Hotels, Three Armored Cars, and Millions of Dollars. Status? Fuqua is still listed as director, but no movement on the project since the announcement.
– September 2011: Was set to direct and produce a new documentary project based on the life and exploits of Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight for Showtime. Status? IMDBPro says it's in post-production, so I'll have to go dig for info on it.
– September 2011: Was "in talks" to direct Relativity Media's Hunter Killer, which was to begin production this winter. Status? No real movement, although Fuqua's name is till attached.
– March 2012: Was "in talks" to direct the film adaptation of the Fox TV series 24. Status? Fuqua didn't get the gig. Robert Cochran did.
– April 2012: Was "in talks" to direct the Millenium thriller Olympus Has Fallen, described as a “Die Hard in the White House." Status? IMDBPro lists Fuqua as the director, so maybe he was hired for it. Gerard Butler is listed as its star. But that's about it.
– May 2012: Fuqua was said to be in negotiations to direct New Line Cinema's crime drama Chicagoland. This was yesterday's news, so who knows. Too early for a status check.
I know there are probably 1 or 2 I left out. But isn't this enough? All announced over the last 3 years!
We're obviously big fans of Fuqua around here, and really hope that he finally is able to get behind the camera again soon for another big screen project; it's been 3 years since his last, and it could very easily be another 3 years until his next.
Not a good look.
So come on Hollywood, or whomever I should be making this plea to… and I should note that I'm certainly not privy to any of these closed-door meetings when these deals are discussed and made… but damn, can a brotha get some love? On one had, it's great that he's actually getting some looks; but it would be even greater if more of those looks became realities.
And Mr Fuqua, if you're reading this, by all means, please feel free to fill in some blanks.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that last year, it was announced that Fuqua teamed up with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to start a new production company.
Screen Daily reported that the films produced under this new partnership between Fiddy and Fuqua would primarily be action dramas – a territory Fuqua is intimately familiar with.
No further details were available on the deal at the time, and I haven't heard much of it since.
I'll be back for with a look at another director tomorrow.