Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind the Making of “Love Jones”
This is the moment some of you have been waiting for! When it comes to black movies, Love Jones is probably in everybody’s top five. To this day, fifteen years after the film’s initial release, people still talk about Darius Lovehall and Nina Mosley like they were real people instead of fictional characters. We own the DVD, know the lyrics to every song on the soundtrack and truth be told some of us are still out here looking for a Darius and Nina kind of love. You know the movie and the effect it had on you but do you know these behind the scenes facts?
It Didn’t Make Much Money in the Theaters but the Critics Loved it about as much as We Did
Even though the film only grossed $12 million at the box office, the incredible story, slamming soundtrack–which earned the 16th spot on the Billboard top 200–and positive critical reception made it a classic. The people as well as the critics loved it. Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, was particularly impressed with the acting: “It’s hard to believe that Tate–so smooth, literate and attractive here–played the savage killer O-Dog in Menace II Society. Nia Long was Brandi, one of the girl friends, in Boyz N the Hood. Love Jones extends their range, to put it mildly.”
Another critic, James Berardinelli, noted that the dialogue is what set this film apart from the rest. “And Love Jones’s dialogue is rarely trite. When the characters open their mouths, it usually is because they have something intelligent to say, not because they’re trying to fill up dead air with meaningless words.”
Can Black Women be in the Moment?
March of this year marked the film’s fifteenth anniversary. Essence Magazine caught up with the cast members and asked them about their favorite scenes. This is what Nia Long had to say…
The scene in the rain where Darius and Nina have their last kiss. It was so cold outside. I didn’t expect for the rain to be that cold, because it was movie rain. But then it really rained. So we had a combination of warm and cold rain. I went back into my trailer and I literally wrapped myself with plastic bags to try to stay warm. There was a big argument about that scene because everyone was like, “Black women don’t like to get their hair wet, and this is unrealistic.” That’s not true. We can be in the moment. We’re not that concerned about our hair.
And this is what director, Theodore Witcher had to say:
We tested the movie, and most of the women in the audience didn’t believe a black woman would stand in the rain with her hair uncovered. This mortified me because we’re going for the big finish and you’re absorbed in this detail of whether her hair would get messed up? The studio [New Line Cinema] said, “Reshoot,” and we shot the scene under an L train track. I wanted to present a woman protagonist without vanity, which I thought would be refreshing, but I guess I failed.
I have to agree with Nia our hair is important but it’s not our god. I’m sure Nina slicked her tresses into a nice bun or poofy ponytail the next day and was still cute with her man. Word to the wise ladies, if you have a Darius type of dude in your life, don’t play him because you’re trying to protect your hair at all costs.
Who is This Theodore Witcher?
Theodore, or Ted Witcher, was only 24 years old when he directed this iconic film. Still a young man in the game Witcher was a security guard at a Chicago TV station and then a production assistant for the infamous “Jerry Springer Show” before he wrote and then directed Love Jones. The movie was loosely based on Witcher’s own dating experiences in Chicago. He’s said that there was a lot of game-playing going on in the dating world. The film, though successful among fans, was a first and last for the director. Much to our dismay Witcher only wrote one other movie after Love Jones. His second film, Body Count came out just a year later and then the young director “disappeared” from the scene. But that wasn’t his intention. In March he told The Root:
No. I intended to have a long list of credits, but I couldn’t get another movie. There has to be something that you want to do that a studio wants to pay for. I was never able to sync that up. I wanted to do ambitious films with more black people. You don’t get to do that.
Some things came my way that I passed on, and I have no regrets. I continue my career as a screenwriter and I briefly directed videos — I was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for City High’s “What Would You Do?” — and commercials, but I didn’t like them. Now I’m working on an adaptation of Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris. We’ll see what happens.
Witcher along with Nia Long and Larenz Tate recently gauged the interest of their fan base to determine whether or not people wanted a sequel. You already know their response was overwhelmingly positive. Witcher has said that they’re working on the sequel so we’ll have to keep our eyes open.
How did the Two Love Birds get the Part?
Witcher has said that when he wrote the movie he had Jada Pinkett in mind. She read the script and even liked the movie but decided to pass on it. Eventually, Witcher met Nia Long through an executive who recommended her. Nia’s process was relatively smooth but both Larenz and Witcher had doubts about making this film together. Tate was hesitant about working with a first time director and Witcher didn’t know if Larenz could handle this type of role, considering he had just played O-Dog in Menace II Society. But the studio wanted Tate and he liked the script. Witcher eventually screen tested Long and Tate together and showed the result to his female friends. They said that the two had a spark and the rest is history.
What did Love Jones do for Spoken Word?
You may have noticed that after the film hit the scene, everybody and their momma thought they were a poet. And not just a poet, a spoken word artist. Clubs across the country started featuring spoken word events. Russell Simmons even capitalized off the culture with his HBO series, “Def Poetry.” While some would say this was a good thing. Others argued that the movie brought this underground culture to the mainstream thereby cheapening it a little bit. In an interview with theUrbanDaily Witcher, said this:
It’s the same thing as digging a rock band that no one else knows about other than you. Then when they became a hit, people say they’re a sellout because they’re a success. It’s the same phenomenon. People find a corner of a universe and once it expands, they don’t like it. My concern was more for the actual spoken word poets who wouldn’t think the poetry featured in the movie wasn’t good. If you lived in Brooklyn and going to Brooklyn Moon, that was the authentic ground zero Isht. The spoken word in Love Jones would seem like a Hollywood version. I knew that, but I had to make it more accessible to a mass audience.
6.) The Fog
There’s a shot where Darius and Nina are running around the Buckingham Fountain in heavy fog. The fog just adds another layer of privacy and enchantment to Darius and Nina’s romantic evening/early morning walk. Though audiences came to love the fog scene, declaring it beautiful, Witcher was not happy with it. In March, when the movie celebrated its 15 year anniversary, Witcher told The Root that the fog in the scene irked him:
The Buckingham Fountain scene bothers me to this day. When we got there to shoot, it was fogged in. You couldn’t see five feet in front of you. Then we rescheduled it and it was foggy again, and the studio wouldn’t give me any more money to reshoot.
It’s not how I wanted it to look. I guess people like it because it has an ethereal glow — the fog and the fountain are backlit — but I hate it, and that’s the thing that people like the most. Go figure.
7.) The Love Jones/Prince Connection
Remember when Darius is trying to convince Nina she should go out with him he tells her, he’ll bring albums to her place until she says yes. He said that he would start bringing her Prince albums and: “You know how that brother like to pump out 4-5 albums a week.” Well, perhaps Prince took a liking to the fact that he was mentioned in the movie. Later in his 2004 release of his thirtieth studio album, Musicology Prince gave a shout to the film in his song “On the Couch” saying, “Love Jones is on the TV again, baby…” Also if you want to extend this connection ever further, Larenz Tate’s wife Thomasina Geneva Parrott was a dancer for one of Prince’s tours. Talk about coincidence.
Are there any little factoids you happen to know about the film? Do share…
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