January 31, 2013
By Kimberly C. Roberts
Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
His early films “Menace II Society” and “Dead Presidents,” directed in tandem with his twin brother Albert, helped to establish the careers of Larenz Tate, Terrence Howard, Jada Pinkett Smith and Chris Tucker. Now Allen Hughes is at the helm of the crime drama “Broken City,” featuring a cast that includes heavyweights Mark Wahlberg and Jeffrey Wright as well as Academy Award winners Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
While the scene has since changed from the gritty street business of the ‘hood to the cerebral shakedowns of upper level politics, Hughes is equally adept at exposing the criminal psyche, whether the perpetrator is wearing saggy jeans or an Armani suit.
While in Philadelphia with Wahlberg to promote “Broken City,” his first feature film since “The Book of Eli” in 2010, Hughes talked about how the smart and timely screenplay by Hollywood novice Brian Tucker came to his attention.
“It was on the Black List, which is the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood — the caviar of scripts,” the exotic and animated Hughes said during a lively roundtable discussion at the Rittenhouse Hotel. “My agent sent me three scripts, and your agent — you can always tell when they really like something. They go, ‘Hey, read these things (whispering, ‘Check this one out’).’ My agent did that a few times, but with the computers now I have a hard time reading when they send them, so actually I threw ‘Broken City’ in the trash two times.
“There’s something about human beings — artists or whatever — you never know what they’re going through when they get something, and whatever I was going through, I read the first page and I was like, ‘I don’t understand this sh*t!’ Then something happened where I remembered the narrative and I was in a good place and I said, ‘Oh. It’s got a great heavy, it’s got a great lead, a great heroic redemption story there.’ Thank God, now you can drag it out of the trash. So I drug it out of the trash and I read the first 20 [pages] and I was like, ‘Oh sh*t! How did I miss this?’
Once a talented teen trying to make it in the film industry with Albert, who is nine minutes older, Hughes felt empathy for the struggling young screenwriter that is rare in Tinseltown.
“I had Brian Tucker meet me at the Palm Restaurant in West Hollywood, and when I read the script initially, it was such a grown man’s script — lions’ dens and power brokers and politics and a lot of scotch and this type of Scotch and that type of Scotch — and I’m like, ‘I can’t wait to meet this 58-year-old white man who’s going to teach me about Scotch and politics!’ ‘cause it’s such a great script,” Hughes said.
So I’m sitting there and then this young kid — looked like he was 19 — Black kid — walks up to me, and I’m like, ‘What is this kid walking up to me for? He must like ‘Menace’ or something.’ He goes, ‘Brian Tucker,’ and I went, ‘Oh. I guess I won’t be learning about Scotch and politics.’
“He was brilliant. He sat down and he was 26 at the time. He wrote [“Broken City”] when he was 24, and he was deflated because he had been through a lot with this script. By the time we got to it, it was a spec script. It was out of the system and he had been kind of abused with the script. So at the end of the meeting I said, ‘I’m going to make your movie, and I’m going to make it next. I promise you.”
While “Broken City,” now in theaters, was a solo project, Hughes remains in close contact with his brother. “He’s halfway across the world doing what he does,” he explained. “He’s in Prague. I just shot a commercial out there. I was out there for three weeks and he cooked me a great pork — I love pork — and he cooked this great meal, and he’s over there like ‘Rain Man’ on his computer. He says, ‘You know what Allen? I can do anything with the push of a button! With the push of a button! Hey! Let me show you somethin’. Come over here.’ And he’s showing me pictures from when we went to Amsterdam 12 years ago. I’m going, ‘Sh*t! You got a picture of me doing that?’
“He cuts a lot. He does these interesting little films and no one gets to see them. That’s all he does. He makes films in a different realm, though.” Even so, the Hughes Brothers have definite plans to collaborate in the future. “For sure! We’re gonna collaborate on everything, I think. It’s just gonna be one captain of each ship,” he said.
Hughes was so impressed with the City of Brotherly Love that filming in Philly could be part of his future. “I would love to!” he said. “I don’t know the project, but this Philly thing is emblematic. It all started here really. It’s emblematic of every city, really. There’s incentives here too. There’s a flavor — there’s an energy here. It reminds me of Detroit in lots of ways — very white and very Black — a very interesting mash-up.”