Jeymes Samuel is a visionary filmmaker hailing from the vibrant streets of London. Renowned for his innovative storytelling, Samuel's upcoming magnum opus, "The Book of Clarence," stands poised to mesmerize audiences worldwide with its daring narrative and star-studded cast, led by LaKeith Stanfield.
Set against the backdrop of ancient Jerusalem, "The Book of Clarence" promises a reimagining of history, following the exploits of the cunning and down-on-his-luck protagonist, Clarence, portrayed by Stanfield. Amidst the rise of Jesus Christ, Clarence endeavors to exploit this spiritual fervor for personal gain, embarking on a journey that intertwines faith, ambition, and unexpected self-discovery. The film boasts a constellation of talent, featuring RJ Cyler, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, David Oyelowo, Anna Diop, Caleb McLaughlin, and more, all converging to bring Samuel's tale to life on the big screen come January 12, 2024.
In this Director's Cut feature, we explore the creative prowess of the maestro behind it all, Jeymes Samuel.
BET: What attracted you to the biblical genre?
Jeymes Samuel: I always wanted to tell a story about that time and place. I have always wanted to venture into that time because I'm an ardent student and lover of cinema. Growing up, we all watched "The Ten Commandments" and "Spartacus." While we can relate to the stories, we could never relate to the visual representation. There's no one of color in those movies. I've never met a white person who looks like Charlton Heston. [Laughs] But all those stories are kind of like about the 'hood. It was almost my mission, a haunting mission to tell a story about the environment that I grew up in, but in the biblical days. Make it look exactly like the environment I grew up in; things that we do get involved in the biblical days and show how closely those two are in unison.
BET: When did you first fall in love with film?
Jeymes Samuel: I remember being six years old, and an encyclopedia was in my house. It had four pages on film and the first page had an image of "The Wizard of Oz." I used to sit there and look at this image for hours. I just used to stare at it. From then on, I had a love film. Then, I was kicked out of school and had to join another school. In between that time, I was kicked out, the rest of my family was off working and at school, and my mom was home; she would be with me, and she was addicted to film. She would have me watch all these black-and-white moves and teach me about all the actors and directors. By the time I went to my second school, I was a wiz on film. It just never, never stopped.
BET: How did growing up in London shape your vision of being a director?
Jeymes Samuel: London shaped my vision of being a director in really immense ways. I don't believe I'd be able to tell the stories I tell if I grew up anywhere else because London is such a cosmopolitan place. It influences you in every single way. You sit at home and watch all the black-and-white [movies] on television. But when you go outside, it's Jay Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and Nas. When you come home, you turn on the TV, and it's Kate Bush. Then you go to the club, and it's Shabba Ranks. So, literally, it informs every single part of me, and as a creator, the key is to be free. The older we get, the less freer we are. As a child, the sky's the limit. When you get older, don't count your chickens before they hatch. The older you get, the less free you are. If you remove all of that and stay true to all of the influences you had as a child, all the influences you have growing up; you will listen to your stairs and climb them to wherever you want to get to. And, with me, it's literally just about being the most free individual on the planet.
BET: In the trailer, you have Prince's classic song "I Would Die 4 U" and The Jones Girls "Nights Over Egypt" is in the movie. You're also a musician; how did you intersect music in the "Book of Clarence?
Jeymes Samuel: I always say that I see music and I hear film. Music is just a compilation of sounds. In writing scripts and doing film, it gives me the ability to kind of explore new terrain and make new sounds. So music is really important. People ask me, what do I prefer, music or film, I prefer cinema. Music is a thing, film is a thing, cinema is a place where both those things meet. Everything meets at cinema, when you sit down, and you experience all of those things. In that, I can take you on any musical melodic journey. Watch the "Book of Clarence" and you see music, it's really an important thing.
BET: Was it hard to get Prince's "I Would Die 4 U"? His estate is very particular.
Jeymes Samuel: It was tricky to get "I Would Die 4 U" by Prince. When it was first presented to me, that teaser -- I am the biggest Prince fan -- for me it was like Prince gave it to us from the nether regions of the force. [Laughs] Bridgette Wright from Sony and our editor presented me with this teaser, and it just made me listen and hear it differently. We had to get the song, but fortunately, Jay Z and the estate have a relationship with each other. So we got on the phone, and we got it cleared.
BET: We are all the directors of our own life. What does the director's cut of your life and journey look like thus far in this world of cinema?
Jeymes Samuel: The director's cut of my life thus far in cinema looks like "Star Wars" before it was called "Episode One," when it was just "Star Wars," but you know "The Empire Strikes Back" is coming then you know "The Return of the Jedi" is coming. I'd say it looks like "Star Wars," it's about a kid going off from tattooing who has big plans and big aims, and he knows something else is out there. Then I go off to this next place, bring down the Deathstar. The Deathstar is everyone that tells us we can't do anything, especially being Black. "You can't do that! No, you can't make your debut movie $90 million dollars." You have to destroy that Deathstar. Destroying the Deathstar is not only destroying all the naysayers; it's destroying a side of yourself that doubts you. Every time you want to do something bombastic, every time you want to do something extravagant, every time you want to cast your pearls in the middle of the murder capital of the UK, you have to destroy the Deathstar and do what your mum and dad sent you here to do. Become the person you need to be, and your life will be "Star Wars," too. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Jeymes Samuel! [Laughs]
See the latest trailer below:
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