Reginald Hudlin on ‘Django’ Oscar Nod

Black Academy Awards Series: The producer reflects on his diverse career and the n-word in the film.

Reginald Hudlin (David Livingston/Getty Images)
Reginald Hudlin (David Livingston/Getty Images)

As we gear up for the 2013 Academy Awards, airing Feb. 24, The Root is speaking with black Oscar winners and nominees — past and present — about the prestigious honor.

(The Root) — There’s a chance that Django Unchained producer Reginald Hudlin could make Oscar history.  His controversial Quentin Tarantino film, which premiered last Christmas, garnered five Academy Award nominations, including best picture, a nod that Hudlin shares with its two other producers. Even though Hudlin, 51, is the fourth African-American producer to be up for a best picture statuette, a win could make him the first to actually snag it.

This honor may be the Centreville, Ill., native’s first by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but he’s been a player for more than 20 years. In 1990, a few years after graduating from Harvard University, Hudlin teamed with his older brother, Warrington, who served as a producer, for his feature film directorial debut with the hit House Party, starring Kid ‘n Play. Two years later, he followed up with another hit, Boomerang, starring Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry and Robin Givens. The movie’s soundtrack launched singer Toni Braxton’s career.

Since then, Hudlin’s added an array of projects to his repertoire including directing episodes of hit TV shows such as The Office and Modern Family, as well as writing and producing for the Marvel Comics series Black Panther and its animated series. He also did a three-year stint as BET Networks president of entertainment and executive-produced this year’s NAACP Image Awards. And Hudlin’s not done yet. “I just took my coat off. I still have a lot of work to do,” he jokes.

The Root caught up a busy Hudlin, who talked about Django Unchained’s feedback, African Americans’ depiction in the media and the criticism BET receives.  

The Root: How has your life changed professionally since you were announced as an Oscar nominee?

Reginald Hudlin: Things are lot more intense. There’s certainly a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of opportunity. I think what’s encouraging is that people look at me and my interests in a broader way. When you’re fortunate to have early success, you kind of get typed in a certain way. So with the success of House Party and Boomerang, it’s like, “Oh, he’s a funny guy. He makes really classy funny movies.” But obviously in the 20 years since then, I’ve done a lot things. I think Django has made people look at the whole body of work that I’ve done. People have taken a reassessment of who I am, saying, “Yes, we’ve been looking at you one way but now we have to reconsider you in a broader way.” And that’s great.

TR: Were you surprised by some of the feedback Django Unchained received?

RH: Well, you know, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive … People have seen it multiple times. Afeni Shakur — Tupac Shakur’s mother — has seen it four times. Dick Gregory has seen it, I don’t know, 16 times. [Laughs.] I get these emails that are so touching. This woman wrote me [saying] she had to get out of her seat and go into the lobby; she was crying because all her life she was taught that black men don’t support their [black] women. And when she saw the film she just realized she had been told a lie, and she just had to compose herself and go back in and watch the rest of the film.

The tragedy is that there are a million movies about men going to save their women, going to save their wife. But I can’t think of the past 10, maybe 20 years, where there’s a story of a black man who’s going in to help save his woman.