Saturday, November 06, 2010
From the Vault: The Hughes Brothers
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCT. 6, 1995
Allen and Albert Hughes, known collectively as the Hughes Brothers, earned wide acclaim as directors for their first film, 1993's Menace II Society. Two years later, their sophomore effort, Dead Presidents, is coming out and the twins also have their own record label, Underground Records, which is releasing the film's soundtrack. The Hughes Brothers have accomplished all this by age 23.
Dead Presidents tells the story of Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate, who played the memorable O-Dog in Menace II Society), a young man growing up in the late '60s who joins the Marines, journeys to Vietnam and finds a hostile world when he returns to his home in Brooklyn. His disenfranchisement leads him to join a group of similarly disaffected men in planning an armored car heist. The film marks a heftier budget for the brothers, whose $3.4 million budget on Menace II Society increased to more than $10 million on Dead Presidents, a situation that allowed the filmmakers more discretion when filming.
ALBERT: "It just made things a little more easier as far as getting things done. Having three armored cars to blow up instead of just one," though he added that the scene was accomplished with only one destroyed armored car.
Originally, Dead Presidents was to be released this past summer, but it was delayed until now, the more prestigious fall season.
ALBERT: "We were happy with the switch, because it gave us more time to edit and more time to look for music for the movie — more time for everything all the way around. Also, more time to plan the marketing strategy. It wouldn't have floated too well in the summer because there was too much bullshit out there."
The film, which began shooting Oct. 31, 1994, shares some violent content with the Hugheses' previous movie. Dead Presidents even contains some particularly gruesome war footage.
ALBERT: "We didn't feel we'd seen the one-on-one graphicness of war. We definitely went looking for things — violent incidences or gruesome visuals — that hadn't been filmed before."
Dead Presidents takes place in the early '70s, an era also depicted in the early scenes of Menace II Society. The time period is particularly attractive to the twins.
ALLEN: "We have a fascination with that decade. The music and the look is what we like, mostly with the cars. The '80s and '90s got more conservative and more bland and it's not exciting to make a movie nowadays with contemporary settings."
The '70s figure into what Albert and Allen hope will be their next project — a biography of rock legend Jimi Hendrix. The Hugheses' lawyers are negotiating with Hendrix's estate about the project, which would star an unknown and is not connected to the movie that actor Laurence Fishburne has long wanted to star in.
The brothers work as a team on the set with Allen in charge of the actors and Albert behind the camera. This routine has evolved since their childhood, when the twins began making movies with a video camera around 12 years of age.
ALBERT: "It gradually moved that way over the years. He used to act in front of the camera and I'd do camera and then I'd act in front of the camera he'd do camera. It's like when we were kids, who's going to pull the wagon and who's going to sit in it. After awhile, he liked pulling it and I liked sitting in it. We both are qualified to do both jobs."
For now, the brothers are content to continue working as a team.
ALBERT: "We're not opposed to working separately on small projects right now but as far as features go, we still have a career to build as the Hughes Brothers and then we'll think about whatever else after that. We still have to get slammed by everyone out here before that."
If the Hendrix project doesn't pan out or ends up taking some time, the Hughes Brothers plan to work next on a "noirish type of action movie," Allen said. Until then, the young men plan to enjoy their burgeoning careers.
ALBERT: "We're just having fun doing what we're doing. We're not politically tied to anything or whatever, just have our own views on things and pretty much not be persuaded by anybody telling us any other story than what we're interested in."