Lee, who has directed five films since The Best Man, including Undercover Brother (2002), Roll Bounce (2005) and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (2008), is mostly remembered for The Best Man. Writing and directing a sequel to a film that is his signature film, that audiences still love and that could potentially break box-office records would be a stressful task for most directors, but not Lee. He isn’t worried about tinkering with the magic of the original film because he thought long and hard about making the sequel.
“When I decided to make a sequel, I said to myself, we can’t just repeat ourselves, we have to do something that is just as special, if not more special, we have to top ourselves,” said Lee. He has had success with his other films, working with larger budgets and established stars as he has honed his craft as a director, which is an asset to the film.
Lee said, “I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t succeed, given that I feel like I’m a better writer than I was then. I’m a better director than I was then. The actors — as great as they were then — are better now. So, why wouldn’t we make something that’s just as satisfying, more sophisticated, just as funny, more emotional and do something special again?”
His words convey the passion with which he approached the project and reflect his ability to get the entire original cast on board. Sanaa Lathan, who reprises her role as Robyn in The Best Man Holiday, discussed how Lee got everyone back on board over dinner at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. “We were just so excited to see each other because we’re all friends; it was like a reunion. He pitched it, moment by moment, scene by scene. Within five minutes, we were on the edge of our seats, literally like we were watching the movie, and by the end of the pitch, we were like. OK, Malcolm, please write this and we will all be on board,” said Lathan.
Lathan’s excitement mirrors the excitement of audiences anticipating the film. Lee sees the film as a continuation of the original, so audiences can expect a different experience, not necessarily a different movie. He offered, “The characters have grown. They’ve got children now; they’ve got mortgage payments. The things that you worry about in your mid-20s aren’t the same things you worry about in your mid- to late 30s or in your 40s. There are issues and things that occur, that come up and change your life, that need to be addressed in this movie.”
While Lee has a track record of success in Hollywood, this doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. “I’m driven more by my heart than anything else, and my head and sometimes those things are counterintuitive. I’m still trying to figure out a way to make them both work.” One thing Lee knows for sure is that right now, all that is on his brain is The Best Man Holiday. When asked what’s next for the director, he simply responded, “Best Man Holiday. I can’t look beyond that now.” Neither can fans of the Best Man.
The Best Man Holiday opens nationwide in theaters Nov. 15.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large at The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.