Five questions for 'Illegal Tender' producer John Singleton

by Terry Lawson

Detroit Free Press (MCT)

23 August 2007


John Singleton was back in town last week to talk about his new movie, “Illegal Tender,” opening nationwide Friday. It’s what Singleton calls “a straight-up genre movie, a crime movie with a lot of heart.”

Directed by Franc. Reyes, “Illegal Tender,” stars Rick Gonzalez as the affluent, Ivy League-bound son of a single mother (Wanda De Jesus ) who finds himself trying to end a violent vendetta that began before he was born. It is also one of the first widely distributed movies to feature an almost entirely Latino cast, and to be marketed to what Singleton, 39, calls “the most under represented movie audience in America.”

Were you seeking to make a movie for Latino audiences?
Absolutely not. Every movie I’ve ever made, I’ve made because I thought it was a story everybody would like to see.

So what did make you want to produce it?
This director, Franc. Reyes, pitched the idea to me, a movie about a kid who discovers that his mom, whom he resents for her materialistic lifestyle, hasn’t told him everything about his dead father and how he earned the money they live on, and who ends up having to reconcile with her.

Did you know there was market for it?
All you have to do is look around, man. Hollywood ignored black audiences for years, and look what happened when they finally wised up. ... I think “Illegal Tender” is going to open a lot of eyes in Hollywood, just the way “Boyz n the Hood” did.

Are you ever going to make another socially oriented drama like “Boyz” or “Rosewood”?
I’m about to start production on this film called “Tulia,” with Halle Berry, which is based on this true story about this town in Texas where the cops and prosecutors literally charged like 40 percent of the black people in town with trumped-up drug-dealing crimes, looking to get rid of them.

You were also the first to give starring roles to Ice Cube, Tyrese Gibson and Cuba Gooding Jr., who then went on to win an Oscar. So what’s up with Cuba ... and junk like “Daddy Day Care”? Have aliens taken over his mind?
(Laughs). Well, I do know he has a big ol’ house to pay for. But I just saw him in “American Gangster” (which comes out in November) with Denzel (Washington) and Russell Crowe, so maybe he’s on his way back to earth.

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