Film Scouts Interviews

"Dead Presidents" Press Conference
at the 1995 New York Film Festival

by Henri Béhar

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Albert (black baseball cap with yellow lettering)
Allen (black cap, white lettering)
- Is the assault of the Federal Reserve truck meant to evoke a similar undertaking by the Black Panthers?

ALBERT HUGHES: No, though even those who participated in that Washington D.C. coup might have thought so. One of them actually gave us the brothers' blessing to do their story, we just said, "Thanks, but sorry, that's not what we're doing."

- Why Vietnam?

ALLEN HUGHES: It could have been any war, but that particular war, for blacks, represented some sort of a juncture.

- Any reason for the (possibly) excessive carnage?

ALLEN HUGHES: If you go to 'Nam, there's a reality to violence, as there is to the gun in the street.

- Including the soldier (Bokeem Woodbine) chopping the head off a dead Vietcong and carrying it in his backpack?

ALBERT HUGHES: We'd read a series of short stories on blacks in 'Nam. This is a real story.

ALLEN HUGHES: We cut down on the maggots, though.

- You reaction to Bob Dole's attack on Hollywood and violence in films?

ALLEN HUGHES: We're getting very sick of Dole's attacks on Hollywood violence. This country was built on blooshed.

ALBERT HUGHES: O.J. Simpson is about bloodshed.

ALLEN HUGHES: People are too used to soft-ass punk-ass movies.

ALBERT HUGHES: We ARE responsible toward violence. By doing it right. Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction"), Robert Rodriguez ("Desperado") and (producer) Joel Silver should not be lumped together.

- Yet must the Larenz Tate character just back from Vietnam work in a butcher shop?

ALBERT HUGHES: The butcher shop is more of an irony, a Macbeth-type thing, where the guy is surrounded by blood. We thought of it when we saw a photograph of a butcher in the National Geographic.

- Where were the Vietnam scenes shot?

ALBERT HUGHES: Disneyworld! (Laughs). Actually two miles away from Orlando, with some backdrop stills shot in Thailand.

- Even in the 1960's and 70's scenes, the dialogue feels very '80s.

ALBERT HUGHES: You may think it is --and we were aware of it-- but that slang existed way before.

ALLEN HUGHES: We have tapes from that period. The dialogue is dead accurate.

- Why don't they get away after the robbery?

ALBERT HUGHES: Go to Joel Silver! (Laughs)

ALLEN HUGHES: In reality the guy went to jail.

- About the title, "Dead Presidents"?

ALLEN HUGHES: It means money. Wars are about money. Life is about money.

- The film is credited as "Directed by the Hughes Brothers". How do you work together?

ALLEN HUGHES: Albert takes care of stuff behind the camera, I take care of actors and performances.

- And Michael Henry Brown?

ALLEN HUGHES: He was an ex marine, he knew the book. We met. We told him what scenes we wanted, he just went and wrote them. Or we'd tell him the song we wanted for the scene. Then we'd work, back and forth, every ten pages or so. Then, of course, in preproduction everything would change.

ALBERT HUGHES: Except parents' scenes.

- The shooting schedule?


- The budget?


ALBERT HUGHES: $1M for the music alone.

- Why Danny Elfman (who scored most of Tim Burton's films)?

ALLEN HUGHES: 'Cause we asked him. We met him, we discovered all three of us were heavily into industrial sound mixed with orchestra.

ALBERT HUGHES: Brings us prestige for whoever would otherwise dismiss the movie.

ALLEN HUGHES: Plus we didn't want a regular "black-movie" soundtrack.

- DEAD PRESIDENT is a studio movie. Any constraints?

ALLEN HUGHES: From the studio, none, although they have final cut. The only thing that limits us here is the M.P.A.A., the ratings sytem. They're givin us a tough time.

- Next project?

ALBERT HUGHES: We'd love to do "Jimi Hendrix" but the estate is in a messy situation for the moment. It may not happen.

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