'70s Blaxploitation icon John Shaft is about to get a makeover for the modern age... again. Yes, Shaft is headed back to movie screens once more.
The man who is only understood by his woman was brought back to the big screen in a 2000 Shaft reboot, which featured Samuel L. Jackson (who else?) taking over the role from original Shaft actor Richard Roundtree. That 2000 reboot by John Singleton made $100 million worldwide on a $46 million budget, and further propelled the careers of its cast members - which included Jackson, Christian Bale, Jeffrey Wright, Toni Collette, and Roundtree in a cameo as SLJ's "uncle," the original Shaft.
The Wrap reports that New Line Cinema (the Warner Bros. subsidiary) has acquired the rights to Shaft from Paramount, which released the 2000 version. Producing the film is John Davis of Davis Entertainment, a man best known for producing both the original Predator and the more recent Predators reboot. Shaft joins other New Line projects like the Vacation reboot in a growing line of former hit movie properties the studio is churning back out (see also: Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Dumb and Dumber To).
John Shaft was, of course, a character created to give African-Americans their own private detective movie hero to root for - at a time when the movement of "Blaxploitation" cinema was underway. That sub-genre of film was tasked with providing the "urban audience" with movies meant to better reflect their experiences and world - often at the expense of proper budgets and production values - and often with exaggerated tropes at play (like infamous conspirator "The Man" being behind evil plots against blacks).
Today, as cinematic appeal has broadened across ethnic lines, Blaxploitation is more a source for retro lampooning, in films like Black Dynamite, or Undercover Brother. However, like the '70s (when the African-American community was hit hard with an influx of drugs as well as disenfranchised and/or militant youth), we now find ourselves in an America where the issue of race is once again at the forefront in a major (read: controversial) way.
In that sense, it's hard to take New Line's progression on a Shaft reboot at face value; the cynic in me would question whether this is simply an attempt to cater to a specific demographic (African-American viewers) by turning an iconic black character into a figurehead for current socio-political tensions. Given hot-button topics like "race switching" in major superhero movies, we also cannot WAIT for the influx of "Gonna cast a White Actor as Shaft now?" instigations and jabs all over the Internet.
Technically, right now, there is no way to say WHO will be playing the new John Shaft, or what that actor's ethnicity (or gender) will be. It's still early yet, and John Davis and New Line have a lot to put in place.
We'll keep you updated on the status of the latest Shaft reboot.
Source: The Wrap