4 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

April 19, 2016

Director Malcolm D. Lee Talks Barbershop: The Next Cut

Special to ColeSmithey.com By Wilson Morales

April 13, 2016

BarperShopNextCutComing out this week is Barbershop: The Next Cut, the third installment of the Barbershop franchise.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee from a script by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, the film features the return of cast members Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Anthony Anderson, Jazsmin Lewis, Troy Garity and Sean Patrick Thomas

New cast members include Oscar winner Common, Regina Hall, Nicki Minaj, Chyna Layne, Michael Rainey Jr., Deon Cole, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lamorne Morris, J.B. Smoove, Tyga, Margot BinghamDiallo Thompson and Isaiah John.

For Lee, who’s done plenty of ensemble films in the past with The Best Man, Roll Bounce, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Soul Men, The Best Man Holiday, this is somewhat new territory. He’s being brought on to another franchise, after Scary Movie 5, where’s he only the director. What helps is that he’s worked with some of the cast and has a good team of producers and screenwriters to make a good film.

In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Lee talks about coming onboard to an established franchise, working with the cast and whether there will be another Best Man film in the future.

Barbershop-Malcolm D. LeeWhat was it that you did not want to do with this movie that people are probably looking for?

Malcolm D. Lee: I don’t know what people are looking for. I wanted to make it culturally relevant. I wanted to make it funny. I didn’t want anything silly happening like, you know there’s a whole thing in the first one with the whole ATM stealing scene that was a little bit much. What I wanted was just to make it feel authentic and up to date, again, funny, it all comes down to tone for me.

Fortunately the content was already there with the environment that was set, with Chicago and gang violence. I always wanted to have this kind of foreboding danger that could invade upon the safe space of the barbershop. The neighborhood could invade that space, the safe house so to speak, and I think we achieved that largely, but still managed to keep the movie very funny.

With a big cast from original cast members and newcomers and different story lines, how do you weave it all in there and bring it all together? Was it the direction or editing?

Malcolm D. Lee: I think a lot of movies are made in the editing room. I feel like, even with Best Man Holiday, there were lots of great scenes that we had to take out of the movie just for the length of time and best for story. That was certainly the case here, but I felt like even more so, because we had so much footage and so many jokes that had to be told. Even as funny as stuff is on set, it doesn’t always translate to the cut. Then it’s like, you’ve got to figure out what’s going to be funniest overall for the movie.

So it’s a lot of things. Yes, in that sense, we did, I did feel, it was one of the first movies that I’ve done where I felt like, okay, this is going to get made in the editing room. Not that I didn’t know what I was doing on set, but I said, we’re going to gather a whole bunch of stuff and then I’ll figure it out.

Barbershop-3How much do you let the actors ad lib and if that makes the cut?

Malcolm D. Lee: A lot. I think that’s why you cast funny people. That’s why you cast people like J.B. Smoove and Deon Cole and Lamorne Morris, who are going to come up. Comedians, they have a different way of approaching material. They’ll take what’s there and they’ll make that funny, but they’ll also riff on that. I knew that was going to happen and I encourage it, because having done a number of comedies with different comedians you definitely want to give them the leeway to do it. When they’re performing, they’re in the room. They got the feel of the room and that’s what informs what they’re doing a lot of times. That’s best, because it’s fresh and it’s in the moment and it’s authentic and it’s real.

Eve made her film debut in the first Barbershop. With this movie, you have Nicki Minaj. People are going to seeing this and wonder if this is stunt casting? How much did you work with her? Even though she’s done music videos, now she’s on a different platform here. Is this going to be a one-off for her or is can we see her do something else down the road that doesn’t have anything to do with her persona?

Malcolm D. Lee: She was in The Other Woman with Cameron Diaz, and when I saw her do that, I thought she was good. You know, it’s funny, when she first came out, I was like, I think I would like to work with her. I think she can act and it’s not anything other than me seeing what she does and how creative she is, to make me think that. Was it a little bit of stunt casting? I suppose, but when I read the part of Draya, I was like, “Oh my God, Nicki Minaj would be great for this.” Honestly, once she was interested, nobody else even registered in my mind. I was like, “it’s got to be her.”

NickiMinajBarbershopWho’s idea was her wardrobe?

Malcolm D. Lee: Primarily hers. A couple times I had to tell her, “Nicki, can you put on a jacket or something.” She’s like, “Why you want me in a jacket?” I’m like, “All right.” I wasn’t going to fight her on that. I mean, there are certain things that I wanted her to be a little bit more covered in, but that’s Nicki and that’s how she felt she was going to be and her character would. Listen, there are girls out there who are like that.

In a barbershop?

Malcolm D. Lee: Sexually provocative, whatever, that’s just how they get down. That’s just how they want to present themselves to the world. So it’s like okay, I’m not totally opposed to it.

With this film you have actors you’ve worked with before. Is it old hat when you direct people who know you, and they know your style of directing like Regina Hall?

Malcolm D. Lee: Regina, she’s great regardless. She has no ego about things. I think that it’s a different character. I think that overall the whole cast was extremely respectful. I think they’ve seen my work in the past and they respect that. So everyone very much trusted me whether I worked with them before or I was working with them for the first time. So Cedric and Regina certainly we’ve done it, but I’d never done the Barbershop movie before. So there had to be a lot of trust placed in me, in order for me to do my job. So I was very grateful that they all trusted me to do my best work. It’s never old hat because every movie is a different challenge.

What works best for you? On a film like this, where it’s not a new film and, like you said, there are layers that have already been established. You’re coming in here and you’re asked to bring your stuff. It’s the same thing like, Scary Movie 5. You’re coming on board into something that’s already in place. What does that do for your psyche? Even though you’re being thrust upon, we’re now handing the reins to you, bring it home.

Malcolm D. Lee: For me personally, I prefer to write and direct, because that’s the way I know I can bring it to its greatest fruition. When I haven’t written something, I just need to work with the writers and get into the mindset of the writers and why he made this choice. This is how I interpreted it, is this how you saw it? Read it in a way that makes the script a place that fits my vision of the movie. When it comes to Barbershop, I thought the two previous movies were good, but I always wanted to put my own spin on it. I wanted to make it, the best of the three. It’ll be up to the fans to decide if it is.

I feel like we’ve had an opportunity to be the funniest of the three. We have a lot more funny people to work with, than they did. Cedric was pretty much the only go to funny person that they had. We’ve got an abundance of them, from Utkarsh to Lamorne, to J.B. Smoove, Deon Cole, Regina Hall. We’ve got lots of funny people that we can count on and of course, we still have Cedric, who is still the king. He still gives you stuff that you don’t think about. So I felt very comfortable in the environment. It’s funny too, because Cedric in the beginning, at the start we did a whole cast dinner. Everybody’s making toasts and Cedric was like, now look here, all you newcomers, we got a good franchise here, we welcome aboard. Don’t fuck it up.

He wasn’t talking to me directly but I heard him, and I’m like yeah, we have to give the fans what they expect, but potentially elevate it. With the script that was there, dealing with gang violence in Chicago, and be very socially relevant as well as something that was going to be really funny. I felt I could do something and bring something to the table with it.


We seem to be coming across this common theme where everything old is new again. This is a movie that’s going back 10 plus years. Best Man Holiday came 10 plus years later. Why is it that Hollywood is now all of a sudden green lighting sequels that the fans wanted to see years ago?

Malcolm D. Lee: I think because of timing. I think that everyone’s always doing remakes. If they’re not doing remakes, they’re doing sequels, and if they’re not doing sequels, they’re doing reinventions or rebooting. There are things that have worked in the past. New franchises don’t always occur, so when something works they want to keep making money. So I get it. Yes, it was 10 plus years later for Best Man but I always had it in the back of my head to do. Yeah, because that was successful they could revisit Barbershop 10 years later, 12 years later, because of where Ice Cube is in his career. People want to see him again. He’s been very successful for a very long time. Okay, with Stright Out of Compton and Ride Along, it was like, “okay, this is a good timing to do another Barbershop movie.” Let’s get the right team together to do that. Fortunately Kenya (Barris) and Tracy (Oliver), they came up with a great script. They were asking me to be aboard, and like I said, “I can bring something to the table.”

What are you doing next and will it be a Best Man 3?

Malcolm D. Lee: I’m eyeing a number of projects including Girls Trip with Will Packer.

What’s "Girls Trip"?

Malcolm D. Lee: "Girls Trip" is a ensemble comedy about 40-plus women who are go on a trip and behave badly. R-rated, Bridesmaids, Hangover type of thing. So there’s that possibility. There’s also the possibility of a couple other things that I’m juggling. I’m starting to think about TV a little bit. As far as Best Man’s concerned, I hope sometime soon, but it’s a scheduling thing right now. There’s a desire on the studio’s part to do it, the actors’ part, my part. It’s really more about, because my actors are all on television shows, it’s hard to schedule a "Best Man" movie, so we’ll see what happens.

March 02, 2016

Angela Bassett Talks "London Has Fallen" & Her DGA Nomination

Exclusive: Angela Bassett Talks London Has Fallen and Her Recent DGA Nom
by Wilson Morales

March 1, 2016

London Has FallenHitting theaters this week is the action thriller “London Has Fallen,”the sequel to the 2013 worldwide smash hit Olympus Has Fallen,”starring Gerard Butler.

The visceral intensity springs from a timely premise: after the British Prime Minister passes away, his funeral becomes a target of a terrorist organization to destroy some of the world’s most powerful leaders, devastate the British capital, and unleash a terrifying vision of the future. The only hope of stopping it rests on the shoulders of the President of the United States Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his formidable Secret Service head Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), and an English MI-6 agent (Charlotte Riley) who rightly trusts no one.

Also returning are Morgan Freeman as Vice President Trumbull, Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs, Melissa Leo as Defense Secretary Ruth McMillan, Radha Mitchell as Leah Banning, Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg, and Sean O’Bryan as NSA Deputy Director Ray Monroe.

For Bassett, after appearing in so many films, this is actually the first time she’s reprising a character. Although she’s play Betty Shabazz twice in films, it was different projects not connecting with each other. She’s also appeared in different roles in each season she’s done for the TV series, American Horror Story.

Earlier this year, Ms. Bassett was rewarded with her first DGA nomination for her directorial debut, Lifetime’s Whitney, which is based on the life of famed and deceased singer Whitney Houston.

In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Bassett talks about her character in London Has Fallen, and her recent accomplishment.

Is this the first sequel for you?

Angela Bassett: It is. It’s special. You already have a relationship with the other actors, so you feel that sense of camaraderie and familiarity. It makes it easier that you don’t have to get to know each other. You have an idea and look forward to coming back. Especially when the first film was so successful.

Did you have any idea that the first film would do well enough to warrant a sequel?

AB: Not at all. We thought it would be one and done. We didn’t know that a sequel would be a possibility. Pretty soon after it opened, that became a possibility. Where can the sequel take us? What world would we live in? They started thinking about that and it took them a while to get that straight. They had to figure it out, writing, re-writing, and it’s a wonderful that the film is coming out with all these different hands in the pot. You get this really exciting cohesive action thriller and we’re all ecstatic about it.

London Angela

Where is Lynne Jacobs at this point? What brings her back in the sequel?

AB: I think she’s been pretty successful as the head of Secret Service. She’s scratched and kicked and she’s highly intelligent. She knows how to get along with people. I think she loves to continue in that position. There’s no reason for any changes there. She understands her men from their strengths and weaknesses and she knows how to navigate through those fields.

London Has Fallen 17

As the head of Secret Service, do you think she went through the same process as an agent?

AB: She’s probably started at the White House, on detail there. She probably didn’t get into these dangerous situations but she neutralized them before they happened. I think she was a young agent and came up through the ranks. She probably had a psychology degree because she knows how to deal with people. In that world you have to know how to deal with people and she’s good at it.

In the first film, Lynne was at another location with Morgan Freeman’s character trying to get the president to safety and with this film, she’s in the middle of this chaos. How much fun was it being in the action sequences?

London Has Fallen 19

AB: Sitting next to Morgan Freeman was stressful because it’s all about what’s in your head. What you imagine? What’s going on out there? You have Mike Banning in the line and you’re trying to save the day without being right there in the thick of it. With the sequel, I’m exactly in the thick of it with bullets flying by and the airplane wobbling and shrapnel everywhere. It was definitely more fun on the ground.

Angela DGACongratulations on your DGA nomination. With a honor like that, what does do for your career?

AB: That nomination just blew my mind. I was so excited. It was like the first day of school, first love, Christmas and New Year’s. All of that rolled into one. It was very exciting. It’s the end to uncharted waters, but it was so thrilling and satisfying working with actors and actress, crew and creative people. It was exciting but it was also humbling. I didn’t step in thinking, “I don’t know it all, but I will act like I do.” I thought, “I don’t know it all, and I will ask questions.” I want someone to break it down for me. People were so willing to help me and guide me. When my DP came in, the first things I said was, “I trust you.” I don’t know camera lens and of course, you have to depend on one another to take this journey of telling this story about people. I want to do it again. Actually, I will be directing an episode of the series that I do, American Horror Story. That’s one of the great things that came out from the nomination.

How exciting is it to come back on the series each season in a different role?

AB: It’s a great compliment that they ask you back. You’re working with Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson and Dennis O’Hare; as well as all the guest stars that come through. It’s fantastic to know that you have a job. In a business where it’s so iffy and one never knows what’s coming next. It could be unsettling for a lot of people. I just try to enjoy it when I’m working and when I’m not working. You’re still growing and looking for work.

From directing, acting and producing, how do you relax when there’s no camera on you?

AB: That’s about 4am or 5am. (Laughs). There seems to be some down time. There’s a perception that you’re go, go, go, especially when people have seen you in the movies, on TV in an old film, in a magazine or at an event, but there is some down time.

If one didn’t see “Olympus Has Fallen,” what’s a good reason to see “London Has Fallen”?

AB: It’s the first one to the tenth power. The stakes are raised. The stakes are higher. The landscapes are bigger. We’re out of the White House. We’re taking on the whole city of London. It’s thrilling, exciting and an adrenaline ride that grabs you by the throat, by your shoulders and you just hang on to your seats and don’t let go until the very end. You invest in the characters. You can relate to them. It’s not just things blowing up for the sake of blowing up. There’s humor, there’s pathos and there’s hope. There’s redemption and there’s heroes. No matter what we go through, that thing about human nature where you’re still standing with your last breathe, you stand tall and you’re going to make it for another day. It’s more exciting than the first than anything you have ever seen. You won’t be disappointed.

July 18, 2006

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton Talks In Little Rock, Arkansas About Where America Could Be Headed
By Cole SmitheyImg_0546

For the past eight years I've attended the Association of Alternative Press Newsweeklies' convention which is held in a different American city every year. Memphis, Phoenix, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Madison and San Antonio are cities that I might not ever have gotten around to visiting were in not for the annual AAN convention. I've shared the yearly convention with my friend Ted Rall, an editorial cartoonist and columnist whose work is translated in 17 languages worldwide. However, the prospect of attending this year's four-day event in Little Rock, Arkansas during the muggy days of June threatened to derail us from going. If it weren't for the news that President Bill Clinton (yes, he's still called "President") would be speaking at a luncheon specifically for the convention attendees, we might not have made the trip to wild and wooly southern town of Little Rock.

A vicious shooting on the front steps of our hotel (The Peabody Hotel) on the night before President Clinton packed a room full of publishers, editors and journalists, set an eerie tone for the man we all wished was still running the country to answer a few burning questions.

Q: What would be your role if Senator Hillary Clinton becomes President?

President Clinton: Well, I don't know if she's going to run. If she runs, I don't know if she'd be nominated, if she got nominated, I don't know if she'd be elected. My instinct is that a woman could be elected President now. I mean Chile elected a woman president, Liberia elected a woman president. It's silly for us not to go to the talent pool that we have in the country. I think if she got elected she would be very good, she would be excellent because she's been a better senator even than I thought she'd be.

She has an understanding of Congress and relationships with Republicans that I didn't have coming to Washington as a governor and she understands not only what we did right but the mistakes we made in the eight years I was President. So for all those reasons and because she cares a lot about the things that I think are most relevant to our future, I think she'd do a really, really good job, including and especially on the national security issues.

Now having said that, I don't know if she's going to run. If she ran, my position with her, ironically, would be exactly what it is with the current President, with whom I disagree on nearly everything, but I have made it a point to develop a good personal relationship with him. My position with him is, if he asks me to do something for the country and I can in good conscience do it, I do it.

Q: Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote an article in Rolling Stone magazine claiming the Bush Administration stole the 2004 election. Do you think the election was stolen, and how can we guard against something like that going on in the future?

Img_0690 President Clinton: I read Robert Kennedy's article in Rolling Stone and I think you should too if you haven't. Before I read it, I was convinced that President Bush had won Ohio. I thought it would have been ironic if he had lost the election in the electoral college and won the popular vote, that is if he went out the same way he came in. But I think there is no question that Al Gore would have won Florida if all the votes had been counted and the people who intended to vote for him had their votes counted.

Between the people whose votes were thrown out for erroneous double voting instructions in Jacksonville and the 3400 Jewish Democrats who voted for Pat Buchanan in the butterfly ballot, and several others, there's no question that several thousand more people in Florida intended to vote for Gore and showed up on election day. I still believe that the two Bush v. Gore decisions will go down as one of the four or five worst decisions in the history of the United States Supreme Court. I think it was a disgrace, and I think if Gore had been ahead and Bush had been behind, the Supreme Court would have voted nine to nothing to count all the votes by uniform standard. That's what I think would have happened. You may not agree but that's what I used to teach in my course on Constitutional Law. That's what I think.

In this case, I don't have an opinion, but I thought Robert Kennedy made a very persuasive case and what was clear is that the Secretary of State, now their candidate for governor, was a world class expert in voter suppression and that he was doing everything he could to keep voters that he thought were Democrats from voting, in every way that he could. I think that is wrong, and I hope that the voters of Ohio will repudiate it. I mean, you know, we ought to be in the business of getting more people to vote, not fewer.

Heck, they had 70 percent of the voters vote in Iraq in the last election. They had a better voter turnout than we did and a bunch of them were risking their lives. So I don't think we ought to be ratifying the public service of anybody who thinks it's his job to keep people from voting, but I don't have an opinion because I didn't know anything about it until I read Robert Kennedy's article. He sure as heck made a compelling case. Those numbers that he said in some of those precincts, the probability of the vote total being that much at variance with the exit polls was one in 600,000, and it happened over and over and over again. So if you haven't read the article, I urge you to read it and when you go back home I urge you to look at this without regard to party. I just don't think we ought to be suppressing voters. We ought to be getting them to the polls and letting them vote and letting them have their say.

Q: Do you believe that the OPEC nations have exaggerated their oil reserves and if so, what are the implications?

President Clinton: Well first of all I'm not a petroleum geologist, but I can tell you this. There's a book written by a man named Jeremy Leggett who is a petroleum geologist who was so alarmed by what was happening not only in climate change but oil depletion that he went to work for Greenpeace. That's a pretty good leap. He's written a book called "The Empty Tank." If you want a book that is not as dark as a book called "The Long Emergency" which is much darker, but really deals with this and attempts to explain the complications of it, I recommend it to you.

There's a guy named Matthew Simmons who is a petroleum investment advisor, he's made a fortune and has been a friend of the Bush family, who believes that we have passed peak oil production. I don't know if they're overstating their reserves but I know this. They have said, for example, the Saudis have said they could go up to 12 million barrels a day in production to try to moderate price, and it doesn't appear to me that they have or can. Keep in mind, most of the OPEC producers prefer oil higher than it was in my second term, but a little lower than this, because they know if it gets real high and stays there, even if we don't impose gas taxes, America will get in gear and we won't need as much anymore and the Europeans will do the same and others will do the same. The Chinese and the Indians might figure out how to skip a step of economic development and not have to use as much energy going through from where they are now to where we are now, in the same… not get there the same way we did. Img_0636

So I actually believe that most of these oil producers would like it if oil were just a little lower or at least didn't go to $100 a barrel in five years. Everybody I know who knows anything about this business believes it'll be $100 a barrel in five years or less. In the biggest Saudi oil field which has about eight or ten percent of the world's oil, but has been heavily drilled, they are now getting the more difficult to drill oil out by injecting sea water and filling the cavities and then pushing it all back up.

Some of that retrievable oil is now 90 percent sea water, 10 percent oil, which dramatically increases the cost of disaggregating it and implies that there may be less oil there than we thought. We know that the depletion rate of the North Sea oil that the UK has, has accelerated more rapidly then anyone thought. Now the really important question is, what are the implications of this? Let's say that the world reaches peak oil production, let's say we haven't done it yet, but we do sometime in this decade. That would mean that half of all the recoverable oil under planet earth has been sucked out. That's what it means.

If that's true, since the first oil wells for commercial purposes were either in Pennsylvania or in Central Europe, depending on whose account you believe, somewhere in the mid-1800s, would mean most of this oil has come out in the last 60 to 70 years, almost all of it. At present rates of usage, given the growth of India and China, it would mean we probably have no more then 35 to 50 years of oil left. So the implications are clear, it means if we don't change, we'll either burn up the planet or go broke and they might both happen at the same time and they'll both happen sometime in the next 100 years in a way that will change civilization irrevocably, that's the implications. It means we need to get in gear. It means that the biggest threat to our economic future is also, I will say again, a bird's nest on the ground, for our country and for every rich country.

October 01, 2004

Michael Moore

Michael Moore Paints George Bush Into A Corner
By Cole Smithey

The unknown potential political impact of Michael Moore's imminent "Fahrenheit 9/11" has audiences champing at the bit to see news that they can't read in USA today, or any day since George W. Bush sat in a children's classroom reading "My Pet Goat" knowing that America was under attack. The movie promises a brewing storm of civil controversy that has never before been tested in the history of cinema. A poll of audiences who attended Moore's last movie ("Bowling For Columbine") revealed that "70%" had never before attended a documentary film.

Michael Moore is a populist filmmaker who happens to engage in a significant brand of independent journalism that raises crucial questions in an air of simplicity and honest curiosity. But the damning answers to some of his direct queries demand action. When Moore reveals that no member of Congress had even read The Patriot Act before voting on the document, it would seem that the American public should perhaps serve our negligent Congress with pink slips.

However, the blind passing of the Patriot Act is but one infraction against American citizens in a laundry list of offenses that Moore clearly exposes in a movie that, more than anything else, provides insight into the lies that Americans have been pummeled with by the Bush Administration. Michael Moore is a sincere and articulate everyman that people around the world listen and respond to enthusiastically. That's much more than can be said of George W. Bush.

Q: What in this movie do you think will be shocking to the public, and what of that would be threatening to the US Government?

MM: Well, what's going to be shocking to most Americans who see this film is Bush's military records that were blacked out by someone at the White House. I don't think people have heard American soldiers in the field talk the way they talk in this film of their disillusionment, of their despair, of their questioning what's going on. Those were brave words to say to a camera. We have not seen that on the evening news. We've not seen the suffering that the war has caused-from those who've been maimed and paralyzed, to the families back home who've lost loved ones. How often have we heard their voices? Every step along the way in this movie will be a revelation in terms of how this lie was perpetrated upon them.

The good thing about Americans is once they're given the information, they act accordingly, and they act from a good place. The hard part is getting through with the information. If the freelancers I was using were able to find what they found in Iraq, with our limited resources, you have to question why haven't we seen this? You see in the movie the first footage of abuse and humiliation of Iraqi detainees. And this occurred in the field, outside the prison walls. That is disgraceful, that it would take as long as it's taken, and for me to come along with stringers and freelancers to be able to bring this to the American people. The American people do not like things being kept from them, and I think what this film is going to do is be like a mystery unraveling.

Q: Do you think the coalition should pull out of Iraq?

MM: Of course the (chuckling) "Coalition of the Willing" needs to de-will themselves, and the United States must remove itself from the situation. We need to find a better solution with people who the Iraqis want there, and who will help the Iraqis rebuild their country-that is not the United States of America.

Q: George Bush accused the US troops, who abused the Iraqi detainees, of a "failure of character," what do you think are the failures of George Bush's character?

MM: Bush's comment about the failure of the US troops is another example of how George W. Bush does not support our troops. George W. Bush and his ilk actually despise our troops. Only someone who despises our young people, who have offered to serve and protect our country and give up their lives if necessary-to send them to war based on a lie is the worst violation of trust you can have, and the worst way to treat our troops. He is against our troops. He has put them in harms way for no good reason other than to line the pockets of his friends and benefactors.

The lack of character begins with him and Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, and the fish rots from the head down. Whatever's going on in Iraq, in terms of this prison abuse and the things you see in the film, starts with sending them over there based on a lie. Immoral behavior begets immoral behavior. This is not some noble mission to free the country, to free people, to prevent a holocaust. This was a disgusting effort on their part, and all we can say is thank God that they got caught as early as they did. If you remember with Viet Nam, it took years before the lie was revealed. This has just taken months. So, I'm somewhat optimistic that we can find a way out of this.

Q: In your movie, you criticize the way the American public is manipulated with fear by the media. How do you manipulate your images?

MM: We do a de-manipulation of the images. The media in America provides a manipulation. During the Bush years they put on a filter and they only allow the American people to see what they think will keep the waters calm. So night after night on the evening news you'll get maybe 5 seconds of George W. Bush where it sounds like he makes sense. In my film, I show the 20 seconds on either side of the 5 seconds where he clearly is totally discombobulated. In my film, I take the filter off, and you see it raw and uncensored and the way it really is. It's both hilarious and frightening.

Q: Are you afraid of being manipulated?

MM: When you come from the working class, you've got a pretty good bullshit detector. I come from a factory town, my dad worked in a factory, and there's a total lack of pretension--everything is the way that it is. Anybody who tries to pretend to be something else is immediately seen for who and what they are. That's a good thing about growing up that way, and I haven't lost that. And I hope I always maintain that sense of always having a healthy disrespect for authority and always believing, as a great American journalist once said, 'all governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.' If we had more journalists who started with that premise, that governments must prove everything that they're saying, then maybe we'd get to more of the truth.

Q: How do you get the clips of these uncensored moments that belong to networks?

MM: We spend a lot of time digging in their archives. Another way we do it is there are people who work in media who don't like the way the media is censored. So there'll be a cameraman over here or a sound guy over there who knows that I would like to see something and will send it to me. We have a network of people who believe that the public should be given all the truth. I can't reveal everything in terms of how we do this, but we're able to get it out there to the people. I shouldn't really have to do this in a free country where there should be open information and you should hear all the different voices. It shouldn't take a guy like me to provide the people with the things that you're not seeing. But as long as that's the case, I'm going to take you to a place that you haven't been before during the four years of the Bush administration.

Q: How were you able to get the war footage from Iraq?

MM: I had a number of freelancers that I was working with, both people that I was able to have go to Iraq, and others we discovered once they were in Iraq-some were embedded, some weren't. The footage of the Iraqi detainees was from a journalist who was embedded with the troops.

Q: How do you think the White House has tried to prevent your film from being made and released?

MM: I only know what I was told by my agent. We had a signed deal with Icon. We were just starting the movie and I got a call from my agent saying that he just got a call from a person at Icon asking for a way to get out of the deal, even though there was no way they could renege on it. They asked if there was any way we could get someone else to take over the deal because they received a call from 'top Republicans,' people connected to the White House, who essentially wanted to convey the message to Mr. Gibson (Mel) 'Don't expect anymore invitations to the White House if they're going to be behind this film.' That's all I know. I don't know who made the calls, but we had this deal-there was a big thing in Variety about the deal-then suddenly, weeks later, the deal didn't exist. Fortunately, Miramax immediately took over the deal and said they would make the film.

Q: Since the agenda of your film seems to be to influence the outcome of the election in November, to what extent do you think a movie can accomplish that goal?

MM: When I make any movie, it's to make something that I would want to go see on a Friday night if I were going to a movie. That's always the foremost thought in my mind. How can we make something that will be enjoyable and entertaining, that people will want to take their date or their spouse to the theater and eat popcorn, have a great time, laugh, cry, think, and leave the theater to talk about it later. Those are always my primary motivations, and that is the motivation behind making this film.

I wanted to say something about the times in which we live, in post 9/11 America, how we got to where we're at, what's happened to us as a people, and have a good time doing it. I also think it's important to laugh during times like these and that's why this film, like my other films has a good amount of humor in it. This time I was the straight man-Bush wrote the funniest lines, so what am I going to do when George Bush files a grievance with the Writer's Guild wanting some sort of screen credit? In terms of 'Will it influence the election?' I hope it influences people just to leave the theater and become good citizens-whatever that means. I'll leave it to other people to decide what impact it will have on the election.

Featured Video




Throwback Thursday