Director X is a film and music video director who has worked with artists like Drake, Kanye West, and Jay-Z. The Canadian born director has also consulted on fashion and has a clothing line, X Fit. He recently directed the upcoming action film Superfly, a remake of the 1972 blaxploitation crime drama, which comes out June 13, 2018.
Screen Rant had the opportunity to sit down with Director X, where we discussed his motivation for doing the film, what Superfly says about the American Dream today, the evolution of hip hop and its influence on the film, and how Superfly touches on topics relevant in today’s culture.
SR: Congratulations, on the film. I have to ask, what motivated you to do this cult classic film Superfly?
Director X: I mean, it was a job that was out there. Silver Pictures had the rights. They had a script. They came to me to talk about it. And the first version they had, the first script I read was actually based on King Lear.
It had been through a very Hollywood story over like 20 years. They had the rights and the studio didn't want to make the movie about the same thing the movie was about. And didn't want to call it Superfly. So then they went and said, “What if we do King Lear?” So they took King Lear and made that into a street story. But then they lost the rights and they named it something else. And then they got the rights back. And then they put it back on this King Lear and then they gave it to me.
And I was like, “What is? This isn't superfly.” I'm like, “Oh, it's King Lear. Oh, that's a great idea. I'd love to do Shakespeare in the hood. But, that's not Superfly. Let's do Superfly.” And they said, “All right, let's do Superfly.” So we put that old script aside and we really dived into the original movie and started breaking down the essential character moments. The essential characters, they're essential moments. Things that have to happen. That was really how things started evolving into the movie you saw.
SR: Interesting. So Priest surpasses expectations from the original Superfly film. What does that say about the American dream? How does that speak to the American dream for anyone that's pursuing it now?
Director X: I mean, look, the American dream is that you can come here with nothing and end up on the top. You can start from the very, very bottom and end up on the very top of the pile. And that's Priest’s story. We all have that feeling. We all have dreams you want to achieve. And his, you know, he wants out, they ain't want to really want to live this life. You know what I'm saying? But that's the one he's in.
SR: You've directed some of the most iconic music videos for the past couple of decades from Rihanna, to Drake, everybody in between. How has hip hop from the nineties evolved and how did that influence Superfly at all, especially working with Future?
Director X: It was the trap music sound when we said we're going to go to Atlanta, we're going to get a Future. We were really dealing in a sound of today, right? So we let that become what it was going to become as opposed to making something that's retro or my personal taste in music. It was none of those things. It was really taking the elements that the original had. In that Curtis Mayfield was speaking as a singular voice artistically about the movie itself with music that was very much of the day. So that's what we wanted to do here. Say, “Alright, we got one. We have this one musician who's taken us into this world. His sound informs it and it will be the music of the day.” And that was, hopefully the audience feels that's where we landed.
SR: Right. Well, one thing that I actually, I love a lot about this film is how relevant it is to our current climate in the world. It touches on police brutality along with many other things. So talk to me about the social issues that you want to do. Because they're subtly addressed, some right there in your face. But talk to me about that a little bit.
Director X: I mean, again, they all evolved from the original film. And the original film, Priest, it gets caught up with dirty cops. At the end of the movie, he beats them up and he outsmarts them. You can't touch me, you know, this whole thing. So we said, alright, Priest outsmarts everybody. He beats up a cop. It’s like a logline. In our movie he outsmarts everybody beats up a cop. But he beats up these cops that had done him wrong. And these ones that were really in the community fucking around. So, those, it wasn't like we said, “Let's make this a thing in this movie.” It was already there. We just updated it to speak to today as opposed to what was going on.
And then there's some things that, like the car chase, we needed a car chase. We want a big car chase and what have we not seen before? What if it happens in the park? What if they go through here? Well we've got to kill the bad guy. Well, what if he hits a statue? What if it's a confederate statue? And the statue comes down. They're like, so there's elements again, everything always came from starting at the movie. What's best for the movie, what are we trying to do? And then they built up to a point that we felt great about it, that also would speak to our audience. But we were never like, “Oh, I want to do something with a statue. Oh, I want to do something with it.”
We never tried to force the movie to go where we wanted to go. We let it go where it needed to go. And we ended up having something that as much, even though it's a big fun action movie and you know if you're looking to, this isn't where you come for your drug dealing tips. (LAUGHS) You're not going to get a real inside scoop on a Atlanta drug culture here, but you'll have a good time. It'll be like a big action movie. But we're able to touch on some things that are happening in the world.
- Superfly (2018) release date: Jun 13, 2018