On the realest tip, putting this slideshow together has made me want to go home and watch Just Wright from start to finish. It’s just so precious! The good girl wins out and gets the guy– and not the nerdy guy who loved her from afar while she was attracted to the captain of the basketball team, she gets the captain of the basketball team. It’s a romantic comedy made in heaven. You know the story, you love this actors in this flick and it might even be in your DVD collection but we bet you don’t know these behind the scenes secrets.
Where the idea came from
In the “Bet You Didn’t Know” piece for Brown Sugar we told you the story of Michael Elliot, the screenwriter who was once a ward of the state, a high school dropout and homeless. He’s also the man who wrote Just Wright. In an interview with Film Independent, Elliot explains how the idea for Just Wright came about.
“The idea from the movie actually came to me in 2002, Queen Latifah was nominated for her performance in “Chicago” and that night she showed up on the red carpet in a powder blue satin suit and she was beautiful. And me and my friends were watching the show because she was nominated. And all the women in my house were talking about how incredible she looked that night. And one of the women said, you have to do a romantic comedy with Queen Latifah as the lead. And my knee jerk reaction was great idea but that will never happen because Hollywood doesn’t make love stories with women who are physically like Queen Latifah in the lead.”
Even though Elliot didn’t think it could happen initially, he couldn’t get the idea out of his mind and he ended up doing research and found that most women in the country actually look more like Queen Latifah than the average leading lady in Hollywood. He started thinking about films that cast women who weren’t thin and conventionally “pretty.” And he found My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That movie ended up being the most successful romantic comedy in history, bringing in $400 million worldwide. From there he knew what he had to do.
“This is the time to create a love story where a woman that represents most women gets the guy and gets the guy without changing. There’s no dieting in this movie. There’s no dialogue about her weight, her size or anything. She’s a beautiful woman.”
Debra Martin Chase
Who is Debra Martin Chase? If you don’t recognize her name, you might want to check out homegirl’s resume. She’s no joke. Martin Chase was the first African American woman to have a solo production deal with any major studios, Disney and ABC. She is actually a Harvard educated lawyer but hated every minute of practicing law. It wasn’t until she was working with Columbia pictures that she made the switch to producing. From there, she worked with Denzel’s production company Mundy Lane and Whitney Houston’s company, Brown House Productions. She started her own company in 2000 and was behind films like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (II), The Preacher’s Wife, Cinderella (the one with Brandy), The Princess Diaries and most recently Sparkle.
How Common knew the director
Surprisingly, the director of Just Wright, Sanaa Hamri, knew Common long before he got his SAG card in the mail. The two met back in the day, over a decade before the movie was made, when he was proposing to his girlfriend using cue cards. In case you forgot just how beautiful this video was, refresh your memory below.
Hamri actually has a really fascinating story behind her journey. Born in Morocco, Hamri won a scholarship to study theater in the states. From there she moved to Paris and then back to New York where she planned on becoming an actress. But things just weren’t working out. She was going out on auditions all to no avail. So she decided she was going to direct. Having never taking a single film class, Hamri taught herself how to edit on Avid. From there she started directing music videos for big named artists like Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Kelly Rowland, and Prince. She directed the Nicki Minaj smash-hit “Super Bass” which haes become her most popular video to date. She also directed the romantic comedy Something New with Sanaa Lathan. She also partnered with Martin Chase to direct The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants before coming to Just Wright.
Phylicia Rashad on being a mother
In an interview with Afrobella, Phylicia Rashad explains why she was attracted to this role:
“The script was well written, I thought the concept was just great, and it was just so much fun! For the past few years I’ve been working in very dramatic productions on the stage, and this was an opportunity to lighten up again and I liked that.”
And then, in an interview with Because I Said So, Rashad explained how she’s always being compared to the Clair Huxtable character and how she approaches playing a maternal figure in her work.
“People always ask about the Claire Huxtable character in everything that is done. How does she compare to me as a person? How is she different from this particular mother? The thing about being a mother is just being a mother. For me, it isn’t rocket science. Being a mother is heartfelt, whether you are a good one, or a bad one. (In Just Wright) the mother understands that the son is a man, and he’s still the son. I can say that for myself: My son is a grown man, but he’s still my child. Mothers just feel that way. It doesn’t change.”
And speaking of legends, you may remember that the casting directors tapped Pam Grier to play Queen Latifah’s role. While you may assume that Grier, being the legend, would be solely on the receiving end of compliments from her costars. Instead though she had some very wonderful things to say about her on-screen daughter Queen Latifah.
“I’ve been fascinated by her intuition and her sensitivity. She so flowed into being my daughter so easily. She’s just so lovable and sensitive, deep well of sensitivity. And that’s a wide spectrum of emotion to work with. You’re just blessed to work with someone who has such a spectrum and is generous, is giving.”
Common’s Background in basketball
Not only did Common have to play a charming leading man he also had to convincingly play a New Jersey Nets player. And though he’s not a player by profession, he’s certainly had some experience in that arena. First, his father was in the ABA, he was a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls as a kid and then he played from in elementary school, high school and camps. So, there was a reason he looked like such a natural on the court. And if that ain’t enough, D. Wade co-signed his skill level.
While other critics had mixed reviews about the film, Roger Ebert, perhaps one of the most respected voices in film, actually dug it and praised Queen La’s performance. He said Latifah, “has a natural sunniness that makes me, at least, feel good.” And then, while many have argued that a basketball player would never choose a Queen Latifah over Paula Patton, Ebert saw it differently: “Once Scott injures his knee and hires Miss Wright (Latifah) as his live-in physical therapist, we know he’s going to fall in love with her. It’s so much easier to fall in love with someone who is necessary to you than someone you are necessary to.” Ebert ended up giving the film 3 out of 4 stars.
So how did this feel good rom-com do in at the box office? Well, not too bad. (Though I’m sure producers would have wanted more.) On opening weekend, it was 4 in the box office and grossed over $8 million on opening weekend. Eventually it was in theaters for nearly seven weeks and grossed $21 million worldwide.