Reginald Hudlin on 'Django' Oscar Nod
Black Academy Awards Series: The producer reflects on his diverse career and the n-word in the film.
TR: How did your first film, House Party, contribute to the black cinematic landscape?
RH: It's a very important film because it was a genre film. That kind of teen comedy is a stable in Hollywood. And I grew up watching them myself, watching Animal House and watching American Graffiti, Risky Business and the John Hughes movies -- The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Those movies had a huge impact on me growing up. And I didn't understand why we didn't have movies like that about our lives.
So when [House Party] came out, and it cost $2.5 million and it made $27 million at the box office -- it made 10 times its money back. It was one of the most profitable independent films of that decade. It really sent a signal to Hollywood that wait a minute, these movies are just movies. We can make genre films from a black perspective, and audiences -- black, white and otherwise -- will embrace them. It was a very important milestone in contemporary black cinema.
TR: Despite your former employer BET's efforts to expand its programming beyond its BET: Uncut days, there are those who are holding a grudge against the network. Is this fair?
RH: I think there's a lot of frustration that black people have with their entertainment choices, period -- not just BET, but at everything that's been made available to us in movies and in television. And that's an interesting contradiction. We have more black entertainment product available than ever before -- more movies, more TV shows, more all of this stuff -- yet people are not happy with what they are getting.
I think that speaks to a couple of different issues: One, we as an audience are more diverse than ever before, and you're not going to get the consensus that you used to be able to get in terms of what black people want other than everything. And I think there's also a challenge where there's still too much formulaic product out that feels like it's more pandering to an audience as opposed to being -- and this may sound like a contradiction -- both crowd-pleasing and artistically ambitious.
TR: One of the primary complaints against reality shows such as All My Babies' Mamas -- which Oxygen scrapped after people petitioned it -- is about the limited and unfavorable depictions of African Americans.
RH: For white audiences, they can watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or Swamp People because they also have all of these doctor shows and lawyer shows that show what people presume is normal white households. Now, I don't know what is a normal white household. Maybe it's more like Honey Boo Boo than Modern Family. But there's a presumption from a media perspective that Honey Boo Boo is an outlier, but the presumption is the most extreme black behavior featured in reality shows is a normal, because we are not as well represented in scripted programming.
That's one of the reasons why people like a show like Scandal. First of all, it's a great show. Shonda Rhimes is great, Kerry Washington is great, the cast and ensemble are great. And those characters aren't perfect, but they're fascinating and wonderful, and we're completely engaged. And that's the example of "Hey, we want to have choices and options. And done at a certain quality level." And Scandal certainly does.
Previously in the Black Academy Awards Series:
'Malcolm X' Costume Designer Recalls Start
Lee Daniels Thanks God for Spike Lee
Oscar Champ Sounds Off on Image Awards
'Dreamgirls' Songwriter Talks Oscars, MJ
Louis Gossett Jr. on Post-Oscar Heartbreak