Despite the consensus that the past year was Hollywood's most diverse yet, John Singleton believes the industry has a long way to go when it comes to representing Black voices. "They ain't letting Black people tell their stories," the veteran filmmaker says in a provocative interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
"You’ve got a lot of Black executives at the studio who are afraid to give their opinion about what Black culture is," he adds. Singleton's scathing indictment extends to non-Black insiders in Hollywood. He says, "the so-called liberals that are in Hollywood now are not as good as their parents or ancestors. They feel that they're not racist. They grew up with hip hop, so [they] can't be racist. ‘I like Jay Z, but that don't mean I got to give you a job.'" The director is presumably referring to Get on Up producer Brian Grazer's recent off-the-cuff comments that he's down with Black culture in part because he attended a Jay Z concert.
While it may be tempting to point to examples like this year's Academy Award winner for Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave, or the commercial hit Lee Daniels's The Butler as examples to counter Singleton's point, both those films were developed and produced outside of the studio system. As for box office hits like Ride Along and The Best Man Holiday, Singleton says, "the Black films now — so-called Black films now — they're great. They're great films. But they're just product. They're not moving the bar forward creatively."
Singleton wasn't all rage in the interview. He also shared some memories of his late friend Tupac Shakur, the subject of his next film, a biopic. "I saw him do his first interview on BET. He declared war on Black Hollywood — not Hollywood itself, but Black Hollywood. He was like, ‘F*** Spike Lee, f*** Eddie Murphy, f*** Quincy Jones, f*** all these fake-a** people. They're going to see a new dude out here. I'm going to come hard.' And I was like, ‘I want to work with him!'"
While Singleton never got the chance to work with Tupac himself, he's channeling his old friend as he prepares to direct the highly anticipated biopic later this year. "I'm germinating over that time, talking to old friends, having emotional moments," he shares.
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(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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