Wesley Snipes In 'Brooklyn's Finest'

Antoine Fuqua, Wesley Snipes i i

hide captionDirector Antoine Fuqua reviews a scene with Wesley Snipes on the set of Brooklyn's Finest. In the film, Snipes plays a drug dealer who doesn't know his prison buddy (Don Cheadle) is really an undercover cop.

Phillip V. Caruso/SMPS
Antoine Fuqua, Wesley Snipes

Director Antoine Fuqua reviews a scene with Wesley Snipes on the set of Brooklyn's Finest. In the film, Snipes plays a drug dealer who doesn't know his prison buddy (Don Cheadle) is really an undercover cop.

Phillip V. Caruso/SMPS

Brooklyn's Finest

  • Director: Antoine Fuqua
  • Genre: Crime Thriller
  • Running Time: 125 minutes
Rated R: Violence, sex, nudity, language and drugs

With: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Vincent D'Onofrio

Antoine Fuqua i i

hide captionFuqua started out directing music videos for artists like Prince before he moved on to feature films. He is perhaps best known for directing the film Training Day which won Brooklyn's Finest actor Ethan Hawke an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in 2002.

Phillip V. Caruso/SMPS
Antoine Fuqua

Fuqua started out directing music videos for artists like Prince before he moved on to feature films. He is perhaps best known for directing the film Training Day which won Brooklyn's Finest actor Ethan Hawke an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in 2002.

Phillip V. Caruso/SMPS

Antoine Fuqua's new movie, Brooklyn's Finest, is about cops who work that part of the borough you won't read about in tourist guides. Host Scott Simon talks with Fuqua and actor Wesley Snipes, who plays a drug dealer who works those same mean streets.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

"Brooklyn's Finest," the new movie by Antoine Fuqua, is about the Brooklyn that hasn't been rehabbed and gentrified with restaurants that get reviewed by the New York Times. It's the Brooklyn of housing projects, drug running, gang busting, and harried human cops who sometimes get so immersed in that world themselves that the line between right and wrong, legal and illegal, goes by in a blur, like the Fulton Rockaway train.

The film stars Don Cheadle as an undercover cop who wants to come up. Richard Gere is a tired old tippling street cop who has just seven days left on the job. Ethan Hawke is an undercover cop with a large growing family that's getting choked in a small house. And Wesley Snipes as a drug lord with a sense of responsibility, if not a real conscience.

Antoine Fuqua and Wesley Snipes join us in our studio. Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. WESLEY SNIPES (Actor): Good afternoon.

Mr. ANTOINE FUQUA (Director, "Brooklyn's Finest"): Thanks for having us.

SIMON: This is tough stuff. This was tough to watch. How tough was it to make?

Mr. FUQUA: It was tough to make as well. You know, we shot, obviously, in Brownsville, which is a place where the police basically told us you were on your own if you go in there. The environment itself is very dangerous. The subject matter, it's draining and emotional and a little scary when you actually stop and think about the issue of what we're really dealing with.

SIMON: Mr. Snipes, what was it like for you? You grew up, spent like the first until you were an adolescent in a project not far from there.

Mr. SNIPES: No, I grew up in Bronx actually and then during the '90s I lived in Brooklyn in the Fort Greene area.

SIMON: I was giving the Bronx the benefit of being pretty close to Brooklyn. So...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: At least as the crow flies.

Mr. SNIPES: Yeah, that's a long train ride. No. The most challenging part about this for me was going home and not having more scenes to do. You know, you get in this environment with these talented artists and the process of creating magic begins and you don't want to let it go. So, that was the biggest challenge for me is just, oh man, we're finished? I want to do some more.

SIMON: It's an amazing cast, and I have to ask how did you get Mr. American Gigolo, Richard Gere, to play a tired, sour, worn-out old cop?

Mr. FUQUA: Richard Gere is the perfect face for this movie. You know, he is the perfect face, he is the charming man who on the outside appears to have it all together; internally he's empty and he's lost and his conscience has been turned off. And there's a rebirth in him.

But Richard Gere is what we imagine our police force to be or America to be. We're beat up and we're bruised and internally we have some issues that we have to deal with.

(Soundbite of movie, "Brooklyn's Finest")

Unidentified Man: Here's the deal: our commissioner, he believes in this new program that puts rookie cops in the highest crime areas, so they want seasoned hair bags like you breaking these recruits in. Since you're the oldest here...

Mr. RICHARD GERE (Actor): (as Eddie) If it's all the same to you, I got seven days. I'm no one's teacher. I'm not a role model.

SIMON: Ethan Hawke gets - I must tell you, to my mind - one of the best lines in the film when he says to a priest through the confessional screen: I don't want God's forgiveness, I want his help.

Mr. FUQUA: Yeah, yeah.

SIMON: And I want to ask about your character, Mr. Snipes, Cazanova.

Mr. SNIPES: Yes.

SIMON: What we would call a drug lord, a drug kingpin.

Mr. SNIPES: Ex.

SIMON: Ex, but trying to get back into the flow of things.

Mr. SNIPES: Right.

SIMON: Was I wrong or am I just projecting, was I wrong to detect a sense of responsibility, if not conscience, in that character?

Mr. SNIPES: Oh, absolutely, you were correct. He does have a sense of responsibility. And the period of time he spent upstate refined him.

SIMON: This is in the penitentiary.

Mr. SNIPES: Right, right, right. And it's also a testament to how the game and the hustle game and the street drug game is a dead-end street. And those who are fortunate enough to get a new lease on life usually should take it. And this is where Caz is. He wants to redefine himself and live a long life without the craziness of hustling. Wants to find some piece of mind in friends and people he can trust.

(Soundbite of movie, "Brooklyn's Finest")

Mr. SNIPES: (as Caz) Been looking for you, man. Calling you. That phone call don't work.

Mr. DON CHEADLE (Actor): (as Tango) You got to get some paper together. You got to get yourself out of dodge right now, dude.

Mr. SNIPES: Why?

Mr. CHEADLE: 'Cause there's a problem with the deal.

Mr. SNIPES: Oh no, man. Ain't no problem, man. Ain't no problem I can't fix. Look, we're getting this money, man.

Mr. CHEADLE: No, listen to me: you cannot take this deal. Caz, listen to me, you cannot take this deal.

Mr. SNIPES: Why, Tango?

Mr. CHEADLE: Can we just take a ride, please?

SIMON: You, as we noted, were born in the Bronx, but you moved to Orlando at one point, right?

Mr. SNIPES: Very briefly, very briefly. That was in high school. Yeah, I left for High School of Performing Arts and then I went there. I finished the junior year and senior year in Florida and caught the first Greyhound bus back to New York.

SIMON: Oh, really?

Mr. SNIPES: And went to the State University of New York at Purchase, yeah.

SIMON: So, I'm trying to figure out where did you play Felix Unger in "The Odd Couple"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SNIPES: I did that in Florida, yeah. That was one of the school plays that we did.

SIMON: Okay. So, it was a school play?

Mr. SNIPES: It was a school play.

SIMON: So, can you do the whole thing about, you know, thinking you have nasal allergies and all that sort of thing like Felix Unger?

Mr. SNIPES: Back then, yes. And I was a fan of the television show so I had a lot to draw on at the time.

SIMON: Mr. Fuqua, did people, well, did the people financing the film ever say to you, oh, come on; you've got to brighten this up?

Mr. FUQUA: No. We had conversations very early on that I wanted to make a film that was true to what my vision was and true to the world I grew up in. And, you know, they were nervous at some point, but when I got all the cast together it helped them feel a little more comfortable giving me the money. And then they pretty much left me along at that point. I had a different ending in the movie, so I gave them that.

SIMON: Well, I have read that it was a different ending and then this was one of the things where you showed that ending to audiences, or at least a couple of audiences, and they...

Mr. FUQUA: Yeah. The audience, it was a mixed review on that ending as far as the audience. I actually made a decision based on the character's action. When I later thought through the reason I was making the movie and the idea of service and what it means to me, it's a good thing. It's a redeeming thing.

SIMON: Services as in?

Mr. FUQUA: Services as a police officer, as a fireman, anything like that, civil service, that when you do the right thing then it's a redeemable quality, so I had to rethink my ending.

SIMON: I must say, when you see the film and you observe the dangers that good, honest police officers go through, you look at a pile of drug money, and you know it's just going to the evidence room, and I can understand where a good and honest police officer would say: I risk my life every day out here. What would be so terrible if I just took a stack of hundreds that no one is ever going to see again...

Mr. FUQUA: Who's going to miss it?

SIMON: ...and help my family?

Mr. FUQUA: Um-hum. Well, that's the pressure. That's the idea. The pressure that these men are under, they make no money - 25,000 to 30,000 a year maybe. They have to do so much overtime to take care of their family. Ethan Hawke's character has five kids and twins on the way. So, that's a lot of pressure -and his wife is pregnant and there's mold in the house. Don Cheadle...

SIMON: And a doctor says to him, you've considered moving, like of course he's, you know, like he could just call Allied and they'll come over and...

Mr. FUQUA: Ah, the irony.

SIMON: ...move him to Westchester. Yeah.

Mr. FUQUA: Absolutely. Most people in this country can understand, obviously everywhere now, the economic pressure and the decisions that may cause a good man to make.

(Soundbite of movie, "Brooklyn's Finest")

Unidentified Man #2: Twins? You lucky bastard.

Unidentified Man #3: Congratulations. It's a problem?

Mr. ETHAN HAWKE (Actor): (as Sal) I ain't got room for twins.

Unidentified Man #3: Sure you do. You got room, man?

Mr. HAWKE: No, no, no. Ronnie, I don't get a new house and get some more bread, I got to tell one of these kids that they got to move in with my sister. All right? How am I gonna do that? How am I gonna tell one of them that, no, you're the one that's got to go? I can't do that.

SIMON: Mr. Snipes, is there something about actors that warms up to the idea of playing characters who skate a blurred line between right and wrong?

Mr. SNIPES: I think so. It gives you a lot of flexibility and a lot of potential choices.

SIMON: When you started shooting, did you know how your character wound up?

Mr. SNIPES: Well, actually, we talked...

SIMON: Of course, you've done a couple of endings, so I dont know how the character ends.

Mr. SNIPES: Right, right. And there were conversions of the film where my character ends up in a very different situation than what you see in this version of the film. You never really know. He never really knows when that next breath will be his last. That's the nature of living in that world - a world that I personally don't have any affection for. I'm not interested.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, you sure played it well.

Mr. SNIPES: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Gentlemen, thank you both very much for being with us.

Mr. FUQUA: Thank you for having us.

SIMON: Antoine Fuqua and Wesley Snipes - Mr. Fuqua is the director; Mr. Snipes is one of the many stars of the new film, "Brooklyn's Finest."

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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