Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind the Making of “Juice”

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Juice director Ernest R Dickerson has said that in the ’90’s, black movies, specifically black movies set in the hood, were the “flavor of the month” and Juice was relatively easy to get made. Whether Hollywood’s fascination with “the hood” was a good thing or bad, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the cast and crew of this film managed to make a film that’s still relevant today. This year, marks the 20th anniversary of Juice and people still regard it as a classic, to Dickerson’s delight and surprise: “My daughter told me that her friends had Juice parties where they would watch the movie and recite the dialogue. Our little story still seems to resonate with so many young people today and I am very happy about that.” Check out the secrets behind this movie.

It was just a writing sample

Gerard Brown originally started out as a playwright but eventually moved on to screenwriting. He and Dickerson, who went to college together, both moved to New York to pursue their perspective dreams. Dickerson came up with Juice and gave Brown only four scenes to build from. Since the two were friends, Brown wrote the script for free. After it was finished it sat on the shelf for three years. Brown eventually obtained an agent and she asked Brown to send her everything he’d ever written. There was a group of director’s who were in the market for a screenwriter and Brown’s agent sent over Juice as a writing sample. They loved it and decided to make that film.

Who’s the director?

You might be surprised to learn that Juice director Ernest R. Dickerson was in his 40s when he made this film. Though he might have been a bit removed from the generation he was directing, Dickerson was no novice when it comes to film making. He had worked with Spike Lee since his directorial debut, “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads” and for most of his major pictures, including She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo Better Blues, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X.

Who’s Going to play Bishop?

Screenwriter, Gerard Brown, said that initially, the people behind the scenes wanted a cast compromised of mostly rappers.(Why, I really don’t know.) Either way, they auditioned Digital Underground’s “Money B” for the role as well as Naughty by Nature’s “Treach.” When they realized the rapper route wasn’t the best way to go, they looked at Donald Faison and Darryl Mitchell for the role. But they were no match for Tupac Shakur.

How did Tupac get the role?

Gerard Brown said Tupac just so happened to be in the hallway where the crew was holding auditions. He was there accompanying his fellow Digital Underground member, Money B. He was rapping. And remember, rappers were in demand for this picture. Dickerson, the director, stumbled upon Tupac and asked him if he wanted to audition. Originally, they had him read for the role of Q. Brown said he was alright as Q but then they asked him to read for the role of Bishop. Pac stepped out and when he came back in and read the lines and even threw a chair during the audition, making him a shoe-in for the role.

Drama on the Set

Jermaine “Huggy” Hopkins (“Steele” in the movie) claimed that Tupac would often walk off set during filming. So, one day he decided to play a joke on him. When he returned one day, Huggy told Pac that he had been fired. Tupac eventually learned that Huggy was just joking; but it didn’t find it funny, he and Huggy got into a bit of a scuffle behind the joke.

Bishop wasn’t supposed to go out like that…

You know Hollywood, if they think something won’t make money, they’ll change it in a heartbeat with little regard to how the artists feel about it. And this is exactly what happened with the ending of Juice. They fought to keep the original ending but Dickerson was feeling pressure from the studio: “If I didn’t change it they might not support the film with the utmost confidence.” A writer at The Independent interpreted those words: “This exquisitely veiled threat refers to the film’s print and advertising budget – inadequate support in those departments would almost inevitably spell its early demise.”

See what the original ending was supposed to be from screenwriter Gerard Brown.

For the love of God, no sequel, please!

Last year, Soulja Boy told Vibe Magazine that was going to reprise Tupac’s role as “Bishop” in a remake of Juice. Soulja Boy dished that the remake was going to take place in Atlanta. The rapper said he was ready to show everybody his acting side. As of late, that talk has kind of died down.

In an interview with Omar Epps, Fast Life Show.com asked what he thought about the idea of a sequel. He was very professional but essentially said it wouldn’t be the same.

“It is what it is. The general consensus is a certain things shouldn’t be remade, but really it’s just a form, I think, of flattery and respect; how those guys were influenced by that; they want to redo it. The best to them, but nothing is better than the original. Our generation was birthing, the Tupac’s, The Biggie’s, The Jay-Z’s. Boyz in the Hood was right around that time, Menace II Society. It’s a different time right now.”

 

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