worldYou can say a film has reached legendary status when its behind-the-scenes story is as well known as its funniest quotes.So is Robert Townsend’s seminal debut. hollywood shuffleis an equally silly and edgy satire about black stereotypes in Hollywood movies.
It’s time for the indie classic to be canonized among other formative American films. February 28, hollywood shuffle is in the Criterion Collection to receive a special director-approved Blu-Ray with new cast interviews and audio commentary featuring Townsend.
Inspirational personal event hollywood shuffle, and the financial challenges Townshend encountered while making it, offer as much insight into the racial politics of the film industry as its hilarious script. After studying improvisation, he moved to Los Angeles in the early 80’s to pursue his dream of becoming a Hollywood star. Like many aspiring black actors, especially during the post-blaxploitation period, he found himself lacking roles other than aggressive stereotypes and widely written caricatures.
Townsend was eventually able to book a supporting role in the 1984 Oscar-nominated film A soldier’s story. However, when he inquired about similar opportunities to work on predominantly black productions, he was told by his agent that Hollywood only makes “one black film a year.”
So Townshend decided to turn lemons into lemonade and crafted the role of a lifetime in his own film about his professional dilemma in Hollywood. At Wayans, he had similarly humiliating casting calls and auditions.co-wrote the script hollywood shuffle, In addition to acting in movies. Townsend partially financed the film with money from acting gigs, but had to figure out the second half by running out of credit cards – $60,000 in debt to be exact. Oddly enough, it became a selling point for the film, the way director Sean Baker shot it using an iPhone.) tangerine It adds a level of intrigue to a small indie movie. )
of hollywood shuffle, Townsend plays Bobby Taylor, an aspiring actor who still lives at his mother’s house and works at a fast food restaurant. When he auditioned for a crime film called ‘Jivetime Jimmy’s Revenge’ it was derogatory and outrageous. After booking the role, Bobby experiences a crisis of conscience through several hilarious fantasy sequences and sketches. Acting School”. (Course includes Shuffle 200 and Jive 101). Best of all is “Sneaking in the Movies,” a movie parody. in the movie, Featuring less subtle spoofs of popular movies like indiana jones and dirty harry with an overtly racist twist.
In 2023, the film commentary feels a little dated, given that many of the stereotypical roles slammed in the film (pimps, slaves, gangsters, sex workers) are now accepted by black actors. Of course, many of these parts are written with more nuance and empathy because black creatives are given more opportunities behind the camera. It offers an essential snapshot of Hollywood in the 80’s. The then burgeoning Spike Lee, Julie Dash, Darnell His Martin, John Singleton, and eventually Townshend (who would go on to direct several other productions) were the diverse Blacks in his cinematic wave. brought At the end of the 20th century.
for hollywood shuffleIn the Criterion release, Townsend spoke to The Daily Beast about what this accomplishment means to him, the implications for the film 36 years later, and whether Hollywood can get slave movies right.
How did you know that Hollywood Shuffle got Criterion released?
I was working with Criterion, so I think someone from Criterion called me.I was in charge of the audio commentary for Claudine, is one of my favorite movies. He also made a documentary on Charles Burnett. And they asked for it to be included in the Criterion Collection. So I can’t remember where the call came from. But I was ecstatic. This is truly an honor.
How collaborative was the process? Were there any features or interviews you’d like to see on Blu-Ray?
was hands-on [with] All. So we talked a little bit about it. Interview with Elvis Mitchell. And then, “I think this interview is really good. You should include it.” Elvis is the best interviewer. So have a great time with him. And they want some Hollywood Shuffle players? But yeah, I was practicing. So this is my baby. It’s such an honor to have seen the Criterion collection during his 30 years with Truffaut, Hitchcock, etc. So I’ve been a fan for a long time.
“The closest thing I would have done if I had tried to do “Hollywood Shuffle Part 2” is Donald Glover doing “Atlanta” and Mr. Chocolate. I thought it was really great.”
— Robert Townsend
Given the time and money constraints, was there any pressure to make the film, or did you go in with no expectations?
i really didn’t [feel] We were just having fun so there was no pressure. We laughed all day long. I’m from Chicago and grew up in the hood. And when you get out of the hood, you have to figure out how to survive. And you have to make as much money as possible.and when i was making hollywood shuffle, I was as resourceful as possible. And I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, this is the only money I’m going to make. I saved that money and my credit card and all the stories behind the movie. said. So it wasn’t that painful. was just having fun. And I’m with Keenen and we’re laughing.These are my friends and we’re having the best time.
Was there room to improvise the script, or were you able to come up with sketches and jokes on the fly?
No, I mean, black acting school — that was the chunk I did in standup early on. was doing all the parts. “My name is Willie”
But here’s what I want to say.What I’ve learned as a director, and I think I’ve learned this by doing hollywood shuffle—casting someone really talented leaves room for magic to happen. But when you have John Witherspoon, Dom Irera, and Lisa Mende, they’re impromptu babies. So you let them go. When you work with great comedians like Eddie Murphy and Chris Tucker, they let go. You can’t say, “You have to do what the page says, Eddie.” Eddie will say, “I can come up with a better joke.” That’s part of the dance.
Have you ever wanted to write a sequel or something similar?
People approached me and said, We could make a sequel. ” don’t know. It’s a different Hollywood now, with many black creators before and after, so it has to find a way. In other words, it’s a different era.The closest I’ve seen to what I was trying to do hollywood shuffle Part 2 is done by Donald Glover Atlanta And Mr. Chocolate. I thought it was really great. And Donald Glover is a forward thinker. And it was very smart and satirical in a beautiful way.
I definitely remembered the absurdist humor Atlanta when rewatching a movie. Do you see the influence of this film in many comedies today?
we sowed hollywood shuffleSo every now and then someone on social media reaches out and says: this is your flower ’ So when I go to film festivals and events, they say, ‘You inspired my work.I remember Ice Cube talking hollywood shuffleAnd he was talking about how to execute the sketch from it. partner in crimeAnd Dave Chappelle said:partner in crime— it was about me. We were making a statement. So Keenen and I were the first soldiers to cross the hill in terms of making comedy and being satirical and not caring and just pursuing it, so I think there’s a fiber that connects us all. .
Was there any backlash or negative interaction with industry insiders as a result of this film?
I think in the movie you see me and Keenan’s love for movies, so they didn’t approach me even if I did. And I didn’t say, “That’s just white people.” We also talked about black people accepting these roles. Part of the dilemma isn’t just white men, so it’s the actors who don’t speak up for themselves. And I think some people said, “He’s just trying to tell the real story.” and he is honest. And he wants to raise the bar for people of color.
In today’s pop culture, we still see a lot of you in bombastic roles in movies. Thankfully, many of them were written by Black authors, so they have a certain amount of humanity to them.
It’s a very different time now. We probably did one show back then.it was good times again The JeffersonsAnd those were the only two shows and we had that one movie. At one point it was just me and Spike, but now we have a whole creative land.
There is still a lot of animosity online about the depiction of slaves and slave movies in general. Do you think there is an ethical way to tell these stories through the lens of entertainment?
I think all stories need to be told. That’s all, do you have a unique device for telling stories? and “I’ll take your wife!” We’ve seen it all. So if it doesn’t teach you something new, it’s just trauma porn. I’ve been watching all the documentaries working on the ’60s lately. And they always have “whites only, blacks only” footage. And they always have that point. And I say: What else can you say about it? ’ At some point, everyone becomes desensitized. And I think we have real trauma in real life. If it was a fascinating story, I would make a film about slavery, and if it spoke to me on another level, and I was saying things no one had ever said before.
Are there any young black filmmakers you’re currently digging into?
i loved take out. I love CreedThere’s Jordan Peele. He’s a comedian, so that’s number one for me. And he comes out of the sketch. He’s just funny and very political. And my name is Ryan Coogler. I think he’s just a foresight. They are successful artists, but they understand everything: how to tell a story, the level of quality, the value of production. These two are talking to me now.