You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Director says he wanted to get at truth of rapper Tupac Shakur


In a way, the origin story for the new movie about Tupac Shakur, “All Eyez on Me,” goes back to one of the now-closed movie palaces on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia

That’s where the movie’s director, Philadelphia native Benny Boom (back then Benny Douglas), fell in love with motion pictures, watching Bruce Lee.

“On Sunday … it was two kung fu movies, a double feature, for a dollar. We would come down on the train, a pack of kids, all like 12 years old. You could get on the subway, come to Center City, and see a movie and eat and get back home, all for five dollars,” Boom said.

As Boom grew up, he would watch TV and take note of how news programs looked different than sports programs, TV shows looked different than movies.

“Even then, I was thinking like a director,” he said.

Boom remembers being dazzled by Walter Hill’s “The Warriors,” about a New York City gang, when it came to a theater in 1979.

“There were some kids in the neighborhood who could get us into R-rated movies, and we really wanted to see ‘The Warriors’ because it was about gangs, and there was all this hype about how it might cause gang violence. I remember watching and thinking, this is nothing like Philly, but I loved it. I loved the way it was shot. I loved the way it looked,” he said.

Boom carried that love to Temple University, where he studied film before heading to New York City. He worked in a variety of jobs for music video director Hype Williams at Big Dog Films before directing his own videos. Since then, he’s made more than 200, for artists including 50 Cent, LL Cool J, and Nicki Minaj. Meek Mill first turned up (unbeknownst to the director) as an extra in one of Boom’s videos — the Ab-Liva video “Hot Damn” features a 14-year-old Mill popping a wheelie on his bike on Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Boom’s love of film developed in tandem with his love of music and the Philadelphia scene. He grew up a huge fan of LL Cool J; he knew Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the Roots when he was playing drums on the streets.

“I remember Ahmir, he had these buckets that he used to play, outside the Tower Records on South Street. He’d be across the street on Friday night and he’d play and Tariq (“Black Thought” Trotter) would rap.”

Boom even dabbled himself, though sometimes his raps were not entirely original.

“I moved to Houston briefly as a kid, and when I was there, hip-hop hadn’t really been picked up on Texas radio. I cliqued up with a bunch of guys from New York and New Jersey, and we’d stage these talent shows, and the guys in the audience had no idea we were ripping off LL Cool J. So I started my rap career refurbishing his work.”

Boom, 45, is now a friend of LL Cool J’s and has directed several videos for him.

Has he shared that story? “Some things I tell him, some things I don’t.”

Boom’s work as a music video director won him two BET director of the year awards and a shot at directing feature films – he helmed “Next Day Air” and a sequel to “S.W.A.T.” called “Firefight” — as well as several TV shows, including an episode of “Empire.”

All of this put him in the running for the prized job of directing “All Eyez on Me.” At different times, the project was attached to F. Gary Gray, Antoine Fuqua and John Singleton, who directed Shakur in “Poetic Justice.”

“These are the three top-level black directors we have in the industry, and at one time or another all were interested in making this film. So some folks are asking, how come it’s being directed by (me)? How come (a guy like Singleton), who knew Tupac, is not doing it?” Boom said.

“From my perspective, the movie had to be made by somebody who was going to make the Tupac story, not the ‘Tupac and Me’ story. My perspective is as a fan but also as a creative person who’s helped guide the visual form of hip-hop for the last 17, 18 years, not some guy who had a fight with Tupac or spent time in the studio with him.”

Boom said he had a desire to get at the truth of Shakur.

“The main thing is to show that he was a human being,” he said. “There’s a mythology about him now, and that’s inevitable, given that he accomplished so much — musician, actor, poet, 70 million albums — and was killed at 25. But sometimes that can get in the way of the man himself. And I want to make a point about how valuable life is, how spur-of-the-moment decisions can affect lives forever. I think that point needs to be made, when you see what’s going on in Chicago, what’s going on everywhere.”

“All Eyez on Me” is also a “cautionary tale” about the perils of success. Shakur’s mother, a former Black Panther who controls his estate and who approved the script, is quoted in the movie as warning Shakur that the establishment is “giving you the tools to destroy yourself.”

Boom saw Shakur’s life as “spiraling so fast, he could not keep up with it.” He survived one shooting, then was shot dead in Las Vegas in 1996, a crime that is still unsolved.

Shakur’s estate (and producer L.T. Hutton, who worked with Shakur at Death Row Records) labored for 10 years to get the movie off the ground. Boom said recent successes of black-theme content helped make it happen.

“There’s what I call the trifecta – ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ and on TV, ‘Empire’ and ‘Power,’” he said. “They’ve changed the landscape and the entire way of thinking about what urban content can do, economically and globally.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

The heat is on at comedy shows through July
The heat is on at comedy shows through July

There’s nothing like Austin in July. The sun blesses us with triple-digit high-fives, and Californians momentarily regret moving here. Still, the weather reminds us that it’s too hot to be too uptight. Recently, at Barton Springs, an ancient, bronzed hippie said to me, “Our cosmic appointment has arrived right on time.” I can&rsquo...
Austin360 picks: Willie’s Picnic, Diana Ross, Village People and more
Austin360 picks: Willie’s Picnic, Diana Ross, Village People and more

OUR TOP PICKS Friday: Sidewalk Chalk at Stubb’s indoors. The six-piece sound machine from Chicago blends hip-hop, jazz and soul. Their live shows unfold as an energetic explosion of booty-moving grooves. The band’s fourth album, “An Orchid is Born,” just dropped and it’s their strongest work to date, earning the indie...
Movies in theaters, 6/30/17
Movies in theaters, 6/30/17

OPENING THIS WEEK “The Big Sick” Grade: A-. Review page 24 “Baby Driver” Grade: B-. Review page 28 “Despicable Me 3” Grade: C-. Review page 26 “The Beguiled” Grade: B+. Review page 25 “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” Grade: B. Review page 27 NOT REVIEWED “The House.” R. 88 minutes...
Civil War-set ‘Beguiled’ patiently weaves an intoxicating spell
Civil War-set ‘Beguiled’ patiently weaves an intoxicating spell

Although it unfolds in and around a Virginia boarding school in 1864, a year before the end of the Civil War, Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” has some of the spooky, suggestive magic of a fairy tale. The opening shot could be of an ancient grove at the witching hour, the chatter of cicadas merging with the sound of a young girl humming...
‘The Big Sick’ revives the romantic comedy
‘The Big Sick’ revives the romantic comedy

In “The Big Sick,” Pakistani-American stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani plays Pakistani-American stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani — and that is not even close to where the similarities end. When the real-life Nanjiani, then a struggling Chicago comic, was courting Emily Gordon in the first decade of this new century, the latter fell into...
More Stories