We love a good fun fact about some of our favorite pieces of Black art. And these days, Black creatives are doing a lot of interviews where these little nuggets are being shared.
Recently, director Gina Prince-Bythewood sat down with Shadow and Act’s Locked Down With, a question and answer series with prominent Black creatives.
During the question, she spoke about Love and Basketball and how she went back and forth with the studio so the movie would have a PG-13 rather than R rating for that sex scene between Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps.
Prince-Bythewood said, “When we did it, I was very specific about what I wanted it to be. It’s a girl’s first time, Monica’s first time, I wanted it to be the fantasy…I kind of wanted to give a blueprint for boys and girls of what to expect. I wanted the reality of it. Sanaa [Lathan] and Omar [Epps] were so dope in that scene, so protective of each other. They just gave the realness, especially just the looks that they were giving each other that said so much, which added organic humor to it which I loved.”
“When it came time to get our MPAA grade on it, they gave us an R, and it was because of that scene,” she continued. “Their argument was that the scene was too real, which is so bizarre–there’s no nudity whatsoever in it, there’s no grinding. So you’re giving me an R because it felt too real, but that was the whole point.”
Prince-Bythewood trimmed the scene and sent it back. But the MPAA gave it an R rating again. The director said she “felt attacked as an artist.”
She was going to just accept the R rating but New Line asked her to trim it one more time. With the last edit, they approved it for a PG-13 rating.
Looking back retroactively, Prince-Bythewood recognizes that the PG-13 rating helped younger audiences, the Black girls she made the movie for, see the film.
Today, when she watches the scene, she said, “I don’t feel compromised at all.”
Prince-Bythewood also spoke about the scene where Alfre Woodard slaps Sanaa and why it ended up being a real slap instead of a staged one.
“We’re doing the scene and Alfre is fake-slapping [Sanaa]…and I was not getting the performance from Sanaa. We just kept trying and it wasn’t coming and finally Alfre came over to me privately and said, ‘Do you want me to hit her, really hit her?’ And in my mind, I was like ‘Yes,’ but then as a director I realized that if I said ‘Yes,’ then Sanaa would never be able to trust me as a director because I literally said, ‘Yes, harm you.’ So I told Alfre no, I couldn’t do that.
So they do the take again, and Alfre slaps her on the leg, to get the shock, and it just made Sanaa laugh. So then they went one more time and I’m sitting at the monitor watching, and boom–Alfre slaps the hell out of Sanaa for real. I almost yelled cut which is so scary because that performance is in the movie. Sometimes I learned as a director get out of the way and let the actors in the scene feed off each other enough and give each other what they need and sometimes they know better what they need.”
Prince-Bythewood has a new project called The Old Guard coming to Netflix in July.
You can watch her full interview in the video below.