Antoine Fuqua: “America is beat up, confused”

On the eve of the worldwide release of Brooklyn’s Finest, SoulCulture’s Hugo Salvaterra delved into the cinematic motivations of director Antoine Fuqua – exploring why he wants to tell us another Street story and its contrast with other projects, his choice of actors and his perspective on America. From Hollywood L.A. to London, let’s gets into Antoine Fuqua’s mind…

Hugo Salvaterra: First of all, after the success of Training Day why another movie in the same genre, why would you want to explore that again after all the accolades that you got?

Antoine Fuqua: I think there’s a lot of human drama on the streets, the abuse of power, authorities, you get to close to the elements you’re chasing and its a recipe for corruption, confusion, despair. I felt with a world like today, people aren’t making enough money in trying to take taking care of their families and the system not taking care of their own. It’s a recipe for disaster so I just wanted to explore that angle.

HS: So the repetition of the theme, good cop/bad cop, the institution vs. the people comes out of a need to mirror  a social problem?

AF: 100% absolutely. I believe there’s a social problem not only in America; I spend some time in Italy, I hung out with some of the police officers there and they have the same issues. They’re not making enough, their life is on the line and their on the streets dealing with criminals and sometimes the police become criminals they become too close to the people they’re chasing and they start to behave and act just like them. And I think it’s a problem.

HS: Brooklyn’s Finest I feel was less action and more drama, do you feel the story was more important the creating suspense on this one?

AF: Yeah I mean I was just focusing on the characters, for me it was mainly the story of Joe, it was just really about, “Are there any good men left?” – that is the question. It’s about men under pressure, and the decisions that they make, it wasn’t so much about action as much as it was about decisions.

HS: Exactly exactly that’s a good premise, I love how the story builds up like three movies wrapped in one revolving around the same theme and that particular phrase – “are there any good men left” – I think that, in good away, summarises the movie. The three stories culminate at the same time, was that the original plan?

AF: Yeah. Michael Martin wrote the script and when I read it was very similar to that and I just wanted to play a little you know? broke some rules,  creatively it was very operatic… Another thing is this happens so often especially in the projects because they look the same; a narcotics shop can be in one building doing some undercover work while a street cop can be in another building doing something and it can all pop up at the same time. In a movie you can think, ‘Well that’s really convenient’ – but I lived in that and I’ve seen it happen. It seems like coincidence but the neighborhoods are so small and you know, it breeds out the same tree… It’s real.

HS: It’s very real. So this theme is something you can relate to on a personal level? Do you have a personal affinity with these stories? maybe that’s why it feels you have a very good perception of what´s really going on out there on the streets…

AF: Yeah, I lived in it and I lived in the projects for years. I lived in Brooklyn for years. I know just what it is. So I was trying to say something. I was also trying to say something with these characters. I worked with guys like that who’ve made some bad mistakes who lived in that hustle game that realised it was a dead end and even when they get out jail they realise that now they cant get out of it, because they’re in the system.

HS: That’s so real. Antoine can you tell me if possible, I don’t know if you’re gonna find this a pertinent question, what is it that you feel the lesson should be or what should we learn from this story, what are you trying to tell with Don, Gere and  Ethan what should we learn from that?

AF: I’m trying to say… Decisions. Well you live and die by your decisions in this life, you know? If you make a selfish decision normally it’s gonna lead to destruction. If you can, you have to make unselfish decisions, but in these contexts [you do] the best you can and I wanted to mirror that.

HS: Every action has a reaction… of course.

AF: Exactly! If you make the bad ones, there’s a price to pay.

HS: Don Cheadle’s chase of revenge that decision lead him to a horrible place. With Richard Gere that decision that he made not to kill himself led him to redemption, all these three men were in the crossroads and Ethan Hawke of course was greed out of love and that’s beautifully done. Now let’s talk about technicality a little bit. The photography on this one was darker, edgier then Training Day, I feel it really represents Brooklyn and N.Y. in general, what movie was harder to make technically Training Day or Brooklyn’s finest?

AF: Technically it was Training Day because I shot under motion and there’s that scene with that car moving around LA. Just trying to move around in car with guys, it was something difficult I had to do to keep it interesting. To keep the camera in interesting places and moving around the camera in the traffic in LA is a fucking nightmare… Now with Brooklyn, I had more fun in a sense – I was down and dirty, I took more chances. I had a guy from Mexico, he was ballsy not spoiled. I would say, ‘I want to light this with one light and I want to be ready in 15 minutes’ and he was brave. I had fun doing that.

HS: And it your home I mean that make sense. And i feel it’s more about the drama then the action on this one…

AF: Yeah it wasn’t about the action i was in an apple box with my actors, I had the most fun just doing that.

HS: Speaking about the actors, Ethan Hawke is a formidable all round actor and I would like to congratulate you on the whole ensemble, every character seems very well thought out, but with Ethan it’s magic. You seem to get the best out of him. Do you feel you have a special relationship, like a Scorsese/Deniro type of vibe?

AF: Yeah I do. Ethan’s a person that right at the initial meeting, we sat down for four hours and just hung out; we didn’t even talk about movie; we talked about life, we were able to relate about a lot of different things… He’s already a great serious actor. I just kinda love the guy, I think he’s great and it’s all about the work and for me and him.

It’s just second nature in a way and we just clicked, I know he’s going to show up every day giving everything and he knows the same about me and we protect each other. He’ll come to me, check on me, make sure I’m alright and if he thinks I’m a little tired he’ll pick up the slack.

HS: The chemistry between you guys… We can see it, it jumps of the screen its great. Anymore partnerships with him in the horizon?

AF: Oh yeah! No question about it. I mean anything I can do, we’re actively looking now for something to do together, I like to think of him as my Deniro, Scorsese and Deniro are just genius together…

HS: That’s funny because we always had an eye on you and we look up to you as a potential black Scorsese and Ethan is like your muse, it’s kind of cool to figure these thing out… Moving on, are you a fan of The Wire?

AF: Yeah, oh yeah. I love that show. I didn’t watch as much as people think I did. I’m not a big TV guy… I caught it on DVD but I love that show. I wasn’t happy that they ignored it so much at the award times so with Brooklyn’s Finest I wanted to reward them, especially Michael K. Williams – he’s from Brooklyn – and I wanted to put them on a movie, on the big screen because they deserve it. They did a great job.

HS: I noticed some of the characters, some of the most charismatic ones, you already emphasised Michael Williams as Omar, a legendary role a definitive role. Clay Davis played by Isaah Whitlock. A realistic show with incredible display of human drama where there are no real “bad guys” everybody’s got their qualities and faults from the cops to the dealer selling crack to little children topped by and a gay king of the hood. I see a lot of similarities between The Wire and “Brooklyn’s Finest but the contrasts are just as evident as the differences.

AF: Yeah I wanted to highlight them, they deserved it, I wanted them to be seen in a cinema all around the world especially because they didn’t get the awards. They deserved it.

HS: Fantastic. We’re coming down to the end. Any particular point on that freeze frame on Richard Gere at the end. Were you trying to say something with that?

AF: Yeah absolutely. America is beat up, confused, busted up, you know? America is a great place to live obviously. But right now we got a black eye, blood dripping on one side, we’re kind of wobbling here and there. To me it’s like if we don’t get it together… I mean we gotta figure out what direction were going in. Obviously if you do the right thing if you move straight ahead that path will be clearer. But that freeze frame, to me, that’s the image of how I see this country. If you lift up lady liberties dress she’s probably got some scars up under that [laughs] and a black eye.

HS: Any new projects on the horizon?

AF: Yeah I’ve been talking with Bruce Wills about this movie The Tomb which is exciting. But right now I got the Tupac Shakur movie coming out in September, I’ve been working on that for a while…

HS: That’s very interesting! I’ll definitely will be on the look out for that… Antoine it was pleasure talking to you thanks so much for your work and what you do and best of luck in the future. I think you mirror reality and with the industry moving towards fantasy and pressure for blockbusters to come out, it’s really brave of you to keep it real, props on that particular interest in genuine stories and genuine people.

AF: Thank you man, I greatly appreciate it. Be well.

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