Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “The Best Man”
It’s not often that you get a good romantic comedy, featuring an all black cast. But just because it doesn’t happen that often, doesn’t mean fans aren’t thirsty for it. That’s exactly why The Best Man went on to become the highest grossing movie the weekend it came out. Almost quadrupling the $9 million dollars it cost to make it. You know the shady story, the lines, and the music; but we bet you don’t know these behind the scenes secrets. Check it out.
How did the story come about?
Before he wrote The Best Man, Malcolm Lee had multiple drafts of five other scripts he was working on. For one reason or another, they were not being received in Hollywood. So, Malcolm came up with an idea: “I’m going to write something so commercial that I can sell it and make my next picture.” He noticed around that time, (The Best Man was released in 1999), that there were several “wedding movies” that were doing extremely well at the box office. But none of these movies had an all-black cast, so incorporating black characters, Malcolm wrote a script that would be commercially successful. And obviously he was right.
How was it working with his cousin?
By now, you’ve probably heard that Malcolm Lee is Spike’s cousin. Before he started making his own films, Malcolm interned with his cousin for the making of Malcolm X. Spike Lee helped to produce The Best Man. Many would assume that Spike might not be the easiest man to work with. So naturally, in 1999, CNN asked Malcolm what it was like working with Spike.
“Spike would make suggestions in the script, casting, editing,” says Lee. “Sometimes I agreed and sometimes I didn’t, and both ways it was great, because he respects the director’s vision.”
The Malcolm Lee Style
Though Malcolm was appreciative of having Spike on set, he said back in 1999, that he’s not trying to become him.
“I’m not trying to follow in Spike’s footsteps. I’m just trying to be my own filmmaker, my own artist. I don’t think my style is defined yet. Hopefully, you won’t be able to pigeonhole me and say, ‘This is the Malcolm Lee style,’ because I want to make different kinds of movies.”
And that’s pretty much what he did. After The Best Man, Lee went on to direct Undercover Brother and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, movies that were radically different than his first film.
How did the cast and director get along?
In a behind the scenes look on The Best Man DVD, several of the cast members remarked on how well they all got along with each other. Taye Diggs confirmed all of that when he also spoke to CNN about working with Lee. “He was real cool. We were all just cutting up on set. We had no problem making that transition from pal, buddy, cool brother to Mr. Directorman. Malcolm would approach us in the same style, and we would just hang out. There wasn’t any intimidation factor. So every day it was like a party on set. And it wouldn’t have been so if he didn’t allow us to just be ourselves and enjoy the fact that we were working on such an amazing piece.” Based on the fact that we’ve seen reunion pictures of the full cast together, I don’t find it too hard to believe.
If you have the soundtrack, you know that the music is banging! But one of the songs had to be edited when it was played in the movie. The Roots’ song, “What You Want,” which plays during the open credits, had to be edited because the song tells the story of a best friend sleeping with his boy’s fiancee.
How Nia created Jordan…
We all may know a woman like the character Jordan, a woman who’s thrown herself into work so much so that her romantic life has suffered. Nia Long has a friend like that too and that’s how she formulated the character of Jordan. This is what she told Black Film.com
I have a girlfriend who is a producer and another girlfriend who works in Publicity. I combined the two. The producer speaks really fast and that’s her thing. Over the phone she can tell you 50 things in 30 seconds. And my other girlfriend who works in publicity is just always carrying stuff. She is always moving and has fifty things going on. I just wanted to create a girl who was always doing something and never really took the time out to relax. That’s probably why she didn’t have love in her life.
Why did Taye Diggs take the role?
After his breakout film role in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Taye Diggs was suddenly a hot commodity in Hollywood, the latest chocolate sex symbol. So it’s not hard to imagine that there were quite a few roles coming his way at the time. But he explained why he chose to take part in this movie.
The large ensemble cast and the fact that it was being shot in New York, combined with a lot of strong positive images as far as African Americans are concerned, really turned me on to The Best Man. It’s a movie about black people that deals with issues that cross over into universal themes that people of all races and creeds can relate to.
Would Taye Diggs have told his best friend?
The movie raises a good question in the fact that it makes audiences wonder if they had slept with a friend’s fiancée whether they would tell the friend about that sexual encounter. An interviewer asked Taye this question and this is what he had to say:
I think that subconsciously Harper wanted all his friends to find out. That’s why he writes the book in the first place. On the surface his character was ignorant but deep deep down he realized that they should know about what happened and he felt guilty. The way he dealt with his guilt was through writing and he convinced himself that nobody would ever find out, which is where he went wrong. We all make mistakes like that, sleeping with somebody who we shouldn’t have or kissing a girl when we know it is wrong. Me personally, outside of the book I don’t know that I would have told either. I’m an advocate of the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ If you realize that what you did was wrong and you know that it’s not going to get back at anybody, in a lot of ways confessing will aggravate the problem even more. I’m not saying I’m not an advocate of being honest, but let’s face it, honesty works best when both parties are understanding.
What do you think you would have done in that same situation?
Critics reviewed the film favorably for the most part, though there were some who said the characters could have been better developed. Others even thought the whole stripper- turned girlfriend was a bit cliche. But despite that audiences loved it, particularly in the black community. In 1999, the film was nominated for 9 NAACP awards and won three. Nia Long won for best actress, Terrence Howard won for best actor and the film won Outstanding Motion Picture.
Virtually every black blog out there has reported, several of the cast members and even Malcolm Lee have said that the sequel is in the works. As of now, the projected release date is November 13, 2013. This year! Do you plan on see ing it? What do you want to happen in the sequel?