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Samuel L Jackson • Bernie Mac • Sharon Leal • Jennifer Coolidge • Sean Hayes • John Legend
DIRECTOR: Malcolm Lee

Bernie Mac and Samuel L Jackson THE CONCEPT:
When Marcus Hooks (Legend) dies, his back-up group the Real Deal, consisting of Louis (Jackson) and Floyd (Mac), who went their separate ways 25 years ago and never spoke again, are asked to take part in a tribute concert at the Apollo Theatre in New York. As Louis refuses to fly there, the two have five days driving across the country to bury the hatchet on their 20-year-old grudge.

U.S. RELEASE: November 7 2008, Nationwide
• Rated: R


Bernie Mack, John Legend and Samuel L Jackson

“Bernie and I had been trying to find a project for awhile. His manager came up with this concept and we sat down with writers and threw ideas at them, told them what we wanted, sort of grumpy old soul singers on the road to New York.”

Bernie Mack and Samuel L Jackson“The chemistry that Bernie and Sam had together was awesome, and I knew if I could transfer it on screen we were in good shape. It helped that they knew each other before, and they developed the script together too; the script had their voices through and through.”

Bernie Mac (Floyd), Sharon Leal (Cleo) and Samuel L Jackson (Louis)“We had a great time with Sharon. She was a little afraid of us at first. I can be a hard taskmaster sometimes, and I was barking a lot some days, trying to make things go, and Bernie was Mr. Easygoing, he was the peacemaker. But she was a little intimidated by us for a minute, and then we put her at ease and took care of her.”

“Well, wouldn’t you be intimidated by Sam? When you go in and you don’t know the people you just assume, ‘Let me just stay out of their way.’ So I guess I was a little cautious in the beginning, but they definitely made me feel comfortable, and we had a great time and a great rapport throughout the making of the movie.”

Malcolm Lee and Bernie Mac“Sam is definitely a lot more rigid in his approach to acting, and a much more rigid personality which served the character of Louis. Bernie was much more of a peacemaker, the eternal optimist, a respectful, nice guy, which worked for Floyd, who was never deterred by Louis’ demands to get more money or his resistance to going on the road with him. In their acting styles, Bernie was much more improvisational, he didn’t like rehearsing, he wanted everything to be fresh.”

“I’d done musicals in college in New York when I was doing theatre. Most black guys have their own Temptations, the Pips kind of fantasies. The extras didn’t know what we were going to do, and the music came on and we started singing and they were shocked. My favorite moment is Boogie Ain’t Nothing in the country western bar, jumping out into the crowd doing some line dancing, just kind of hanging out. It was fun and totally cool.”

“The biggest challenge was being the straight man with all this chaotic humor with these wacky [guys]. Cleo, if you really were to dissect it, her stuff is pretty heavy. She’s abused by her boyfriend, her mother just died. This girl is going through it and everybody else is just having a great old time being wacky. So, it was a challenge to stay focused.”

“It was more difficult to keep Sam under control than Bernie with his cursing. They were both cursing, and even Bernie was like, ‘Man, we’re curing too much in this movie.’ We ended up in the editing process trying to eliminate some words. Bernie never over did it, he only did it with adlibbing. And I think it’s a tribute to his maturity as an actor, and not just being a funnyman. I think this movie displays a real range of emotion and talent from Bernie that we hadn’t gotten an opportunity to witness.”

“It’s a profane comedy, these guys are guys from a certain era, they speak a certain way. These guys are over 60, they are entertainers, they are on the road, they had a certain kind of lifestyle, they did things and they lived a life so they speak a certain way, and we were comfortable doing it, and believe it or not, when we went in to do the voice over stuff, we took another third of the words out.”

LEE on Bernie Mac’s untimely death:
“I’d heard for about a week that he was sick, that he had died, that he was going to make a full recovery, you didn’t know what to believe. I called people close to him to find out what was really happening, and they told me it was looking dire. And on Saturday morning, I think it was the 9th of August, I got the phone call early in the morning from his make-up artist that [he had died]. You never get a good call early in the morning, so I knew it was bad news, and I was very sorry to hear it.”

“You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. The next day is not promised to you. I was shocked by [Bernie’s death], but what bothers me more is that Bernie didn’t get to see the movie. He did a great job, and it’s an amazing kind of tribute to what he is and who he’s been, and I think it’s the best work he ever did, people are going to remember him in this film. Fifty is young, I’m going to be sixty this year, so it’s a little more scary for me. My daughter with her interesting sense of humor, Bernie passed, then Isaac Hayes [who was also in the movie] passed the next day, it was kind of like, ‘We need to get you to a safe house.’ Her sense of humor is like mine, because I was thinking that very same thing.”

Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes and Samuel L Jackson

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Film Review, #701, November 2008 cover

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