Ashley Ratcliff is the assistant editor at Home Media Magazine. She is passionate about faith and urban films, which are the focus of the “Stepping Out” blog. The University of California, Santa Barbara graduate recently co-authored her first book, Stories 4 Women, a collection of true short stories. Ratcliff’s career began at the Palos Verdes Peninsula News, where she developed an affinity for interviewing newsmakers and sharing her perspectives in commentaries. Contact her with faith and urban film tips and inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lee Daniels Defends ‘The Butler’
It had been quite some time since I felt inspired by “urban” films, or those geared toward African-Americans. That was, of course, until I saw The Butler, from director Lee Daniels.
It is the heartwarming tale of White House butler Cecil Gaines — based loosely on the real-life Eugene Allen — who served eight presidential administrations throughout 34 years, ultimately living to see the nation’s first black president elected. The gripping drama intertwines Gaines’ silent, passive battle against racist attitudes so prevalent at the time with his son Louis’ bold participation in the fight for equality while serving with the Freedom Riders, marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and embracing the militant tactics of the Black Panthers and Malcolm X.
Whereas seeing this story of this courageous black man instilled in me a sense of pride for his accomplishments (after all, he successfully and positively influenced the views that whites at the time had toward our people), there were some in the community who didn’t see it as such.
From the comments section on various websites covering the Anchor Bay Entertainment film to Facebook rants from friends and acquaintances, some hold the opinion that the movie industry, as of late, has been crowded with too many stories of blacks in subservient, “negative” roles as slaves and servants (Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave and now The Butler).
To me, these are stories that need to be told, because we need to be reminded of how far we’ve come as a people. Slavery and the civil rights movement really weren’t that long ago when you think about our history.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Daniels on this topic, and many others, and this is what he had to say about it:
“This is the human condition. I think that we all choose to black out stuff that is just too painful to think about. I remember as a 5-year-old learning to read — I’m 54 now — going from Philadelphia to North Carolina visiting my great-grandmother and knowing that my dad was teaching me ‘for colored’ and ‘for white.’ That’s how I formed my letters and stuff on the ride from Philadelphia to Durham, North Carolina, and getting there and seeing that you could only drink from a certain fountain, and drinking from the white water fountain thinking that it’s going to be different and realizing that it don’t taste like Sprite, it’s water, behind your father’s back.
“I don’t want to remember that, so I blocked it out. I think it’s the human condition to not talk about something so painful, to think about something so painful, ugly, the way that these people — our people, my people — were treated. I think that African-Americans don’t like to think that way. We are progressive, and I understand it. But I say that is bulls*** because I honor my relatives that had their teeth knocked out so that I could make this movie and look white men and women in the eyes today. It’s an honor to them. Most African-Americans, if not all African-Americans come from a lineage of servants. That’s from where we cometh, and then slaves prior to. They should be honored. It’s disgraceful that we basically say, ‘Let’s not honor them. Let’s not tell their stories. Let’s just pretend that it never happened.’ And I think that that’s bulls***.”
That being said, I really do hope that the upcoming awards season is kind to The Butler, its stellar cast (Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz), passionate director and 41 dedicated producers.
Anchor Bay serves up The Butler on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Jan. 14.
Daniels expounded further on this poignant project during our phone conversation.
“People, once they finish seeing the film, learn what a real hero is, and that we have very far and few heroes, both African-American and white,” said Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy). “White people and black people were standing up for something important and were willing to be killed for what they believed in. We don’t really see that type of heroic behavior today. Hopefully it inspires folks.”
Daniels dedicated the film to the men and women who “fought for our freedom” during the civil rights movement. This includes people like Gaines (Whitaker) who subtly shaped and altered whites’ views about blacks just as much as those move vocal activists like his son (Oyelowo), the director said.
“The movie [raises the question], who was right? Was it Louis’ way?” Daniels asked. “Was it his ideology of going into the streets with King and Malcolm X and then the Panthers? Was it his way of inevitable militance that was right, or was it the African-American that was passive that got that white important person to trust him or her so they could break the barrier of racism and show that [black] people were people? There’s no right or wrong.”
The Butler earned two Hollywood Film Festival Awards: Director of the Year for Daniels and the Spotlight Award for Oyelowo.
“For those that didn’t experience it in the theater, it’s a wonderful, colorful journey through the civil rights movement on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s a great home movie,” said Daniels, adding that viewers can expect “tons of great scenes” deleted from the film on home video.
‘3 Blind Saints’ Gets Dove Approval
Faith-based comedy 3 Blind Saints has earned the Dove Foundation’s family approved seal.
Written and produced by Steve Gray, 3 Blind Saints follows three childhood friends with big plans to make it big, and in the process shows how the Lord sometimes works in mysterious ways. The film stars Richard Speight Jr., Stelio Savante (“Ugly Betty”), Elijah Rock, Barry Corbin (No Country for Old Men), Murray Gershenz (I Love You, Man), Audrey Matos and Irma P. Hall (Meet the Browns).
It is available for instant viewing on Amazon.com and iTunes, or for purchase at blindsaints.com, Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart.
Produced by Hungry Horse Media Productions, 3 Blind Saints was filmed in Kansas City with more than 200 community volunteers.
‘The Bible’ Miniseries’ Global Reach Is Undeniable
I was one of the 100 million people who viewed the 10-part, five-episode event that was The Bible: The Epic Miniseries. Religiously, I tuned in to the History Channel on Sunday nights in March, my eyes fixed on my TV screen, excited to see how exactly husband-and-wife team Mark Burnett’s and Roma Downey’s vision would come to life.
The series gives accounts of such notable biblical tales as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Noah and the ark, Moses and the burning bush, Abraham’s test of faith with Isaac, David slaying Goliath, the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus and Peter walking on water, Lazarus being raised from the dead, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, and, ultimately, Jesus’ crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection culminating appropriately on Easter Sunday.
I, for one, would have liked to see the stories of Joseph and Jonah told for their inspiring and teachable moments that have resonated with me throughout the years, but overall The Bible is an exhaustive collection of the book’s greatest hits. I’m sure Burnett and Downey had a hard time trying to pin down which parts to highlight.
The couple addressed their challenges and even the controversy that blemished the series (some seeing a resemblance of Satan in President Barack Obama) during the “Oprah’s Next Chapter” interview that aired on OWN this past Sunday, accompanied by Diogo Morgado, the 33-year-old Portuguese actor who was given the role of a lifetime as Jesus Christ.
It’s not a surprise that Burnett and Downey, who identify as Christians, were met with skepticism when some of their colleagues in Hollywood heard of their daunting endeavor to tell The Bible. I’m just glad that they were able to stand on their faith and prove the naysayers wrong. In doing so, they have touched so many people.
Now that the series is out on Blu-ray Disc and DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, I can’t help but think of all the places The Bible will go and all the other people it will reach, including some who have never read the Bible or don’t know about Jesus Christ. The series’ global impact is undeniable.
Personally, it made me think of these stories in new ways and, most importantly, made me want to dig in to the Bible for myself to see how their portrayal stacked up to the written word. The beauty of having it on disc is to catch some of the things we may have missed the first time around. Burnett and Downey alluded to a few thought-provoking parallels made in the series during the Oprah interview.
The Bible: The Epic Miniseries could very well be this generation’s The Ten Commandments. I guess only time will tell.
Lifetime’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ Cast Does Admirable Job
Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Queen Latifah and Jill Scott — a virtual dream team of talented actresses. Seeing these women of color come together for Lifetime’s remake of Steel Magnolias, to me, was significant because I admire each of them.
Woodard was remarkable as the sweet, wise matriarch in The Family That Preys. Her portrayal of the sassy Southern belle Ouiser in the revamped Steel Magnolias earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.
Rashad (Clairee) will forever be my TV mother, as I’m a HUGE fan of “The Cosby Show.” Sure, she was amazing in A Raisin in the Sun, For Colored Girls, Good Deeds and every other project she’s involved with, but seeing her as the Clair Huxtable is as good as it gets.
I’ve been rockin’ with Queen Latifah (M’Lynn) since the days of her sitcom, “Living Single.” I even named my car after her character, Khadijah, the editor and publisher of the fictional Flavor magazine.
And Scott (Truvy), the soulful Grammy Award-winning songstress, has blossomed into a wonderful actress. The way she commanded her breakout roles in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?” films was outstanding.
Up-and-coming co-stars Adepero Oduye and Condola Rashad, who happens to be Phylicia Rashad’s daughter, also gave commendable performances as Annelle and Shelby, respectively.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases the new, all-Black version of the 1989 film, which first was a stage play, on DVD with UltraViolet May 7.
The 2012 Steel Magnolias apparently was the highest-rated movie of the year for the Lifetime network. Move over, Liz & Dick.
Admittedly, I never had the desire to watch the original film because I simply felt I couldn’t relate. Boy was I wrong.
While it was a plus seeing actresses who look like me in the film, Steel Magnolias transcends boundaries of race, age and class. It is a movie that has the ability to touch women of all kinds. It definitely spoke me, as I found myself getting misty-eyed a couple times while watching at home.
Hopefully, Sony Pictures’ release will allow a new generation and demographic to grab hold of the timeless tale of friendship, motherhood and the joys and sorrows that bind this vibrant group of women.
Drawing the Line
Tom Bancroft (left) and Tony Bancroft (right)
Growing up in the Bancroft household, twins Tom and Tony were competitive just like any set of brothers. But instead of wanting to be the best on the football field or basketball court, they tried to top each other with their artistic prowess.
“We just both love to draw, so that’s what we were competitive with,” said Tony Bancroft. “Just as iron sharpens iron, we improved at a faster pace because of our competitiveness.”
The brothers quickly rose up the ranks to work on the animation of numerous Disney films, such as The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. They worked closely together on The Lion King, as Tony drew warthog Pumbaa and Tom drew young Simba, collaborating on the sequence leading up to the upbeat tune “Hakuna Matata.”
They got an even closer working relationship when Tony was appointed co-director of Mulan with Barry Cook, and Tom was named supervising animator for the title character’s comical dragon companion, Mushu.
“That was the great experience as twin brothers to have our characters interact with each other, but then it was a whole different thing when it was Mulan, and now he’s my boss,” said Tom Bancroft, who is three minutes older than Tony. “… I had enough on my plate with Mushu and the challenges of making him as good as I could that I didn’t question him too much. Because he was an animator too, he knew what I was up against also. In the end, it was a very favorable relationship. We would have our lunches, where we would go off and just be brothers.”
As a first-time director, Tony said overseeing a film was a welcome — and sometimes stressful — change of pace. He and colleague Cook earned an Annie, the animation world’s answer to the Oscar, for Mulan.
“As an animator, you’re very much like an actor on a live-action film,” Tony said. “You get very involved with your character. You try to understand the ins and outs of it. … But as a director, you get to see the big picture, no pun intended. You’re involved day to day with the larger elements of the overall story, character development, and you really catch every aspect of the feature.”
The Mulan experience was equally satisfying for Tom, who considers Mushu his favorite character to work on during his more than two-decades-long career. After perfecting hundred of versions of the spunky character, voiced by comedian Eddie Murphy, Tom was able to hone in on a creature that was an integral part of the film.
“Mushu is Eddie Murphy and me combined, which is an extremely odd combination. I couldn’t be more different than Eddie Murphy,” Tom said with a laugh. “… I evolved with [Mushu] as an artist and as an animator, and was able to bring so much to it. It was a great opportunity. He’s one of those characters that as an animator, you just hope you get to work on once in your career. It’s been a real blessing to do that.”
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment March 12 re-releases Mulan as a two-movie collection with Mulan II. It is available as a three-disc Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack ($39.99), with bonus material including deleted scenes, featurettes, music videos and a commentary. A two-DVD set is listed at $29.99.
The release marks the 15th anniversary of the 1998 film about a Chinese maiden who goes undercover in the army to save her father from death and becomes a great hero in the process.
A father of three daughters, Tony said the character of Mulan makes a great role model for girls.
“We really wanted to present a different kind of Disney heroine,” he said. “Up until that point, there was Belle and Jasmine, Cinderella and Snow White. [But they] were all dependent upon their prince charming coming to save them. ... For Mulan, she was different; she didn’t really change herself as much as she changed how society views — ancient China, in this case — a woman. It was a real privilege to be able to present this new kind of Disney heroine to the world. I think that’s what really resonated with a lot of audiences.”
Mulan was also positive for youngsters in that its theme urges viewers to be true to themselves, Tony said.
“It was very important for [Mulan] not to change or be affected by those around her, to really stand up for who she was,” he said. “What I want my kids to learn from it and other generations of kids to learn from it is they can be true to who they are — their faith, their beliefs, being true to their parents and family. That’s a big part of the Mulan story; I hope that’s the legacy of the film more than anything.”
Throughout the years, the Bancroft brothers have held on to their Christian faith, even facing criticism at times for their participation in animated films that were a perceived affront to their religious beliefs.
“For every film at Disney, it was all about trying to find the thing in the film that spoke to my faith. Sometimes there where conflicts. There were a lot of faith things in Pocahontas that I didn’t agree with,” said Tom, a father of four who animated the title character. “I don’t pray to the spirit of the trees, obviously. And I would get questioned at church even: ‘How can you work on a film that’s so different from your faith?’ To me, I wasn’t telling my faith. That’s not what the film’s about. I was accurately trying to portray part of the story [about] the Indian culture at that time.
“It would be unfair to leave some of that out, and it would be even worse to include anything of mine or somebody else’s faith when it wasn’t true,” he added. “[But] never taking my eyes off my faith or the gospel of Jesus Christ being a part of my life, and how I work with others was always, hopefully, goal No. 1 in my life.”
Although the siblings no longer draw for Disney films, they continue to animate and share their faith in the process. Tony founded Christian-based Toonacious Family Entertainment in 2002, while Tom is working on a project for the Christian Broadcasting Network that focuses on Bible stories.
“Part of the reason why I left Disney was I felt a real calling that God had given me a lot of opportunities at an early age, unexpectedly, and put me in a place where I had earned a lot of experience,” Tony said. “I felt had God had given me so many opportunities in my career that it was leading toward something, to do something a little more independent.”
Added Tom, “How we show God and Christ in our lives is more of what we say and do than what we draw, obviously. You can show Christ in your life in a creative way in what you leave out rather than what you put in. Sometimes, just making a film that doesn’t have violence and sex and things like that, and also making a family film can be an uplifting experience. … But my experience at Disney was more about what we left out that I could be proud of.”
Introducing Faith Light Media
Indie distributor House Lights Media today unveiled its faith- and family-based division, Faith Light Media, which provides Christian and inspirational offerings.
Faith Light Media’s first title, Hidden Rage, released in July, is a gripping account of one high school student’s harrowing bout with bullying and depression. The drama won a Dove Foundation “Faith Based” award for its inspirational message (Read review here).
Up next from Faith Light Media is “Little Baby Disciples,” its second project that introduces Bible concepts to children in an interactive way. The Lord’s Prayer, the first DVD in the series, has earned a five-dove ranking by the Dove Foundation and will be available Feb. 26, 2013, at retail and online stores.
“With the launch of Faith Light Media, we are focused on introducing appropriate and inspirational content to the North American market so families can experience the innovation of independent filmmakers within this genre,” said Sandy Moore, Faith Light Media’s chief marketing officer.
“Faith Light Media’s primary focus is to distribute innovative projects that we have recognized for their strong faith and family messages, and serve a product category that we feel has long been underserved,” added Steve Roberts, CEO of Faith Light Media. “Faith Light Media is a natural extension of House Lights Media’s commitment to the innovative filmmaker.”
The company plans to use social media outlets to market and introduce their projects to the secular and non-secular market.
I Risked Life and Limb for a $39 Blu-ray Player
The only willing recruit I could find to accompany me in my harebrained scheme was my fun-loving sister, Ayesha. I now see why other family members and friends scoffed at the idea of braving Walmart on Thanksgiving.
Nonetheless, my sister and I arrived at the Murrieta, Calif., Walmart at 8 p.m., just as the doors had opened, ready to see what Black Thursday had in store. I came for the $39 LG Blu-ray player and the $148 32-inch Emerson TV, both under the one-hour in-store guarantee from 10 to 11 p.m. My sister sought a vacuum cleaner and gifts for her son.
What ensued next runs the gamut of emotions: excitement, expectancy, impatience, frustration, fear.
After asking three store clerks where the line was for the Blu-ray players, we arrived smack dab in the middle of the store to find a pallet of the players stacked a few inches taller than my 5-foot-3 frame and about the length of a passenger van. There was no line, just people closely huddled around the stack, like a scene from a sitcom where the protagonists enter a radio contest and must keep their hands on a car the longest to win concert tickets.
Without hesitation I took my place at the least occupied corner of the pile. It was about 8:25 p.m. “Only an hour and a half to go — I can do this,” I thought, abandoning hope of locating the flat-screen TV.
By 9 p.m. my feet already were hurting, my mouth was dry, my body temperature had risen and I was having second thoughts. Ayesha had left to peruse other bargains throughout the store, while I began to make small talk with the other shoppers to pass the time.
That night, the social norms of personal space were out the window, as more and more people vying for a $39 Blu-ray player began to swarm the stack.
Ayesha returned about 20 minutes later with a vacuum cleaner, a telescope for my nephew and other miscellaneous items. I used the vacuum box as a seat, which helped me soldier on. I had gotten my second wind, and was in it to win it. After sending my sister to fetch me a $30 steam mop, she went to get a place in the massive line that wrapped the entire store.
By about 9:30 p.m., the other shoppers were beginning to crack, and the flow of store traffic was being disrupted by the spectacle that had become “The Great Blu-ray Player Wait.”
“Hey, Tony, can we just take the players now? I mean, by the time we get in line, it’ll be 10 o’clock any way,” one chatty shopper asked the store clerk sent to supervise the LG players. By now, they were on a first-name basis.
“No,” the stern Walmart employee responded. He wasn’t budging.
At this point, people had lost all sense of manners, and little scuffles were beginning to break out between shoppers who were being bumped by other customers trying to improve their position. At several points, customers asked Walmart employees if there was a more orderly method they could use (it seems there was an organized line for the other big-ticket doorbusters), but each time, the clerks said it was too late to change things up.
Then things got really real at 9:50 p.m.
Some punk ran off with a couple of Blu-players prematurely, causing a frenzy. At that moment, all bets were off. It was every man (woman) for himself (herself). So I grabbed two (one for my mother, one for myself), and attempted to bulldoze my way from the crowd like a running back on the gridiron. Elbows were flying. One caught me in my left arm, but I had to keep moving. I darted up to the checkout line to find my sister, with a look of terror in her eyes. She had only heard the melee from several yards back and was wondering where I was.
We then began to laugh, realizing the ridiculousness of it all. It was hard to believe that these were people who hours prior, perhaps, had discussed the many things they were thankful for over Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m grateful Ayesha and I made it out alive, albeit after midnight. Whereas my zany sister thinks we should make Black Thursday shopping a sisterly tradition, I think we should retire from the game early.
Pass the Grace, Please
Whether you’d like to admit it, we’re all in need of forgiveness. The Grace Card from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment uses the story of two very different policemen to paint a poignant picture of that simple truth.
In the faith-based film, the well-respected Sam Wright (Michael Higgenbottom) gets promoted to a sergeant in the Memphis Police Department, much to the disappointment of fellow officer Bill “Mac” McDonald (Michael Joiner), who has been on the force longer.
Also fueling his animosity is an underlying race issue. Mac’s toddler son was killed some 17 years prior in the aftermath of a police chase involving an African-American drug dealer. It’s the impetus for Mac becoming a cop, but the tragic incident also has led to him having prejudice toward blacks. Sam, who also pastors a local church, is African-American, and tries to make the best out of their situation, when they are paired together for patrols.
Both Sam and Mac have struggles in their home lives, as the former is estranged from his father and the latter is at his wits’ end being the sole provider for the household (his wife suffered a workplace injury) and raising an unmotivated teen son, Blake (Rob Erickson), headed down the wrong path.
In a shocking turn of events, Mac, responding to a call with Sam, accidentally shoots his son as the boy attempts a robbery. This terrible mishap causes more strife between Mac and his wife, as their son’s life is jeopardized. Blake needs a kidney transplant immediately, and the chances of him finding one are slim.
What happens next is a testament to the power of God’s grace.
Sam knew that being partnered with Mac, an unbeliever who was contentious at every turn, was a test from God. While he could have easily just held a grudge against Mac for the way he previously treated him, Sam instead showed his colleague love and compassion, and then went an extra mile to give a kidney to Mac’s son. Basically, he showed grace.
After his surgery, Sam goes on to tell his congregation about the “Grace Card,” a heartfelt pledge that he passed along to Mac. It reads: "I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same and be your friend always." In turn, Mac offers the “Grace Card” to the most unexpected person who actually needs it the most.
Sam’s selflessness reminds me of what Paul says in Acts 20:24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
The Grace Card ends with this great reminder from Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved …” The film — definitely a tear-jerker, in a good way — hit home in a manner that made me reflect on my own life and reaffirmed how much more compassionate we should be toward those around us. After all, people have shown such kindness to me when I didn’t deserve it. I think it’s a feeling to which we all can relate.
‘Holy Roller’ Preaches Hope in Darkness
Angus Benfield said he set out to write a character that hit close to home while penning the screenplay for the uplifting drama The Holy Roller.
It turns out that the main character, Pastor Luke, is a lot like Benfield, an Australian actor-filmmaker who also is involved in ministry. In the film, which Image Entertainment releases Sept. 25 on DVD ($27.97), Benfield plays Luke, a genuine but out-of-touch small-town pastor.
When he relocates to the city, a shrewd club owner (Jeremy Brennan) convinces Luke to use the waning venue as a church. Luke quickly becomes a big-time televangelist, basking in the money and fame that come with his new platform. He also falls for a feisty singer (Victoria Abbott) who leads the congregation in worship songs. However, it’s only when Luke endures hardship that he truly learns what it means to exercise his faith.
“I developed this idea of, what would happen if a nightclub became a church?” Benfield said. “I thought it’d be a really cool idea to take this naïve, bumbling idiot and put him in this kind of world. I always thought it was interesting when you’re around people who are in the nightclub scene, and they find out that you’re a pastor, how they react is quite funny.”
Benfield, who preaches every now and then, said he could relate to Luke’s humble beginnings as the shepherd of a fledgling congregation.
“I was a youth pastor many years back,” he said. “I was part of a small church that was planted, and it was that whole process of trying to get it off the ground and hardly anyone turns up, and suddenly you have a lot of interesting characters that walk through the door. That wasn’t too much of a stretch for me.”
Pastor Luke reaches the masses with his simple, conversational lessons. For the bonus material for The Holy Roller, Benfield extracted some of those sermons from the film as a Discussion Guide designed for more in-depth bible study.
Other extras include a filmmakers’ commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and an interview with Benfield and director Patrick Gillies.
“My main goal was to make a film that really anyone could watch,” Benfield said. “The spiritual message would be that God is in the gutter with everybody. He’s in these dark places and in nightclubs. There is always hope in those dark spots.”
That is especially true for those involved with the project, considering that the film itself was touched by tragedy. The Holly Roller has the distinction of being the last movie shot in Christchurch, New Zealand, before a major earthquake struck the city in February 2011. The disaster killed 185 people — including some of the film crew’s friends and extended family members — and decimated many structures.
“That probably resonates with a lot of people,” Benfield said. “We were down there doing post-production when it happened. A lot of the buildings we filmed aren’t there any more or are being brought down. It’s sort of an interesting timing thing as well.”
Benfield noted that the exact day the earthquake hit, he was visiting a theater that he hoped would host the film’s premiere. The Holly Roller screened in Christchurch as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival in September 2011.
“It was a bit of an eerie thing,” he said. “I think people have mixed feelings. Some people might have found it a bit sad. We had some people who couldn’t quite bring themselves to watch it, as it is when you go through something like that.”
Cast of Typecasts
Screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman knew that adapting Steve Harvey’s bestselling book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, into a good movie meant casting a dream team of actors who could do it justice.
Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco and Terrence J bring their respective strengths to their characters in Think Like a Man, which Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Aug. 28 on Blu-ray Disc ($35.99) and DVD ($30.99).
In Think Like a Man, four friends — “The Dreamer” (Ealy), “The Mama’s Boy” (Terrence J), “The Player” (Malco) and “The Non-committer” (Ferraro) — plot to turn the tables on their women when they discover the ladies have been using the book's relationship advice against them, creating a clever battle of the sexes.
“I knew I had the ingredients to make a classy, intelligent and really funny movie,” said director Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four). “Once I sit down with all the actors and we make sure we’re telling the same story, then, I must admit, I get out of the way. There’s so many happy mistakes and so many things that happened that you just can’t direct.”
One might lump comedian and scene-stealer Hart into that “happy mistake” category, as he supplies many of the laughs in the romantic comedy as Cedric, “The Even Happier Divorced Guy.”
“The good thing about acting is making choices,” he said. “… For me, it’s choosing a tone and sticking with that tone, as long as that tone is realistic. You can be as funny as you want to be, but you want to be believable. You want people to believe that this guy could actually exist.”
“With this kind of all-star team, it’s like having Dwight Howard or Shaq back in the day,” Story added. “You got somebody that, when it comes to being funny, you can always throw him the ball and he’ll slam dunk it. … If you ever needed a jolt, you could just go to Kevin.”
This, of course, prompted a wealth of footage that now is available in the bonus material, which includes deleted scenes and a gag reel. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are “The Guy Code,” “Men vs. Women,” “He Said, She Said” and “Comedy Behind the Scenes” featurettes.
The male co-stars said they were relieved that Hart was cast because it meant that they just simply had to act, without the pressure of being “funny.”
“I would be a fool to try to out-funny Kevin Hart in a movie,” Malco said. “… You have to be pretty secure in your job to even get to a point of working in this caliber of talent.”
For cast members like Union, Ealy and Henson, the film presented the opportunity to step out and portray stark contrasts to their typical roles.
“I normally play the girl who’s got it all figured out, and somehow can’t find a man from the right side of the tracks,” said Union, who stars as Kristen. “This is a whole different experience that so many of may friends [and I] have experienced … having different wants and needs and timetables than the person that you’re with. That was the thing that appealed to me the most, and just being able to do something different and explore different paths of relationships we don’t touch upon.”
Ealy, who has starred in some intense roles, this time around plays Dominic, the sensitive, financially challenged, top chef in the making.
“He has to be vulnerable; he has to be a good friend,” he said. “But more importantly, in terms of the path I try to drive this character, as far as the relationship is concerned, it was all about finding your muse and then being inspired by that muse, then through the pain of losing that muse, you find self-motivation.”
Take the Ensemble's Advice
Throughout the film, the characters give each other dating advice — some better than others. Cast members were kind enough to give their two cents on various aspects of relationships. Here’s what they had to say:
Ferrara on picking the right mate: “What I’ve learned as I get a little bit older is people always say what they want, what they’re looking for, and I think that’s the wrong approach because that’s always going to change. What you want now is going to be different from what you want in five years. What I’ve learned from past experiences is what you don’t want. That’s something that’s not going to change.”
Hall on dating a mama’s boy: “Don’t compete. Love their mama, too, and then she’ll actually be on your side more. You can’t win.”
Terrence J on the best way to end a fight when you’re wrong: “As a man, you have to be the man, and you have to assume responsibility for your actions. That’s why this movie is so important is because it will hold a mirror up to everybody.”
Hall on the best way to end a fight when you’re wrong: “[Say] ‘I’m sorry’ – a nice, genuine apology and a meal. Men like food. Men don’t need anything grand, but a meal and affection and quiet time.”
Ferrara on couples moving in together: “Just be ready for the fact that this could end the relationship. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea. I think it’s a good idea because if this is someone that you end up with, you’re going to live together at some point. … It can go either way. Stuff will change. It’s a risk.”
Union on couples moving in together: “I wouldn’t recommend it for college students. I think it’s important to have your own space and know what it’s like to be on your own, like truly on your own: financially independent, emotionally independent, before you join up. By a certain age it’s none of that “you complete me” s***. [laughs] You have to know we are two wholly formed individuals moving forward together. I need to know, do you clean the toilet? What’s your taste like? I need to know if you have an affinity for black lacquer furniture. These things you’ll never know until you share space. I think it has to come with age and maturity, and two truly independent people joining together. If one person is having to be carried, then it’s a bad situation to live with somebody because, do I get to claim you on my taxes? Because you’re a child. You’re a dependent. [laughs]”
Ealy on whether a woman should “think like a man”: “I think women should try to understand how men think, but I don’t know if we think the same way. You know what I mean? Kevin [Hart] will view life differently, and Romany [Malco] will view life differently. I think you’ve got to take every scenario as it is. And I don’t know if every man can speak on behalf of me. There are some generalities that I think are accurate, and, yes, I think there are some things that women will learn from this movie like I personally learned a couple of things from ‘Sex and the City.’ That’s kind of what we’re putting out there. Some information on how we kind of process things, and how we run decisions … through each other. You don’t always come up with stuff on your own; we go to our boys, our crew and are like, ‘So listen. This is what I’m going through. What do you think?,’ and get all kinds of bad advice. [laughs]”